10 December, 2019

Blog

Our Permanent Umbilical Connectivity To India

By S. Ratnajeevan H. Hoole

Prof. S. Ratnajeevan H. Hoole

Connectivity

Today (15 Aug.) is India’s Independence Day and will be celebrated by India’s Jaffna Consulate – an event that Jaffna looks forward to as one of its important festivals with good food and Indian artistes coming for our enjoyment and to celebrate all we share.  

Sri Lanka and Sri Lankan culture are India’s children. We are inseparably connected. We, especially Tamils, go to India for vacations, saris, medical treatment, Hindus to temples for blessings like our Prime Minister and President, education, female boarding-schools, movies, etc.. In the 1960s, it was common for MG Ramachandran fans to cross the Palk Straits illegally to watch the premieres of his movies and be the envy of lla.

Broken Connectivity

It is unfortunate that the connectivity is strained as a result of our two major communities having their relations strained by racism. India was forced to intervene because our war was threatening India’s security with gun fights between Tamil factions in Chennai. The Thirteenth Amendment, while not fully satisfying Tamils, was a via media that provided structure for Sinhalese and Tamils to live together. Unfortunately, there are communalists on both sides of the ethnic division who argue that the amendment is useless and use the unlawfully postponed provincial council elections to argue that provincial councils should be eliminated, stripping Tamils of the few powers they have over their lives through the partially implemented agreement. Few Tamils realize that if not for India repeatedly reminding our government of its obligation to implement fully the Indo-Lanka agreement, they would be far worse off.

Independence Day 2018 at “India House, Jaffna”

In these circumstances, India joining the rest of the International Community to help end the LTTE as stated by Tamil Leader and Elder Statesman R. Sampanthan without any acrimony towards India, must give Tamils pause to ask why India did that. 

When the LTTE assassinated Rajiv Gandhi on Indian soil, began drug-dealing, and smuggling uzi-machine guns from Israel to drug cartels in South and Central America it signaled that it had grown too big for its boots and threatened peace globally. That is why the IC had to act as it did in 2005-9. Who is the thinking Tamil who can argue that after that dastardly murder and threat to law and order, India had to help the LTTE achieve Tamil Eelam? This is why Mr. Sampanthan argues that having snuffed out the LTTE stopped the Sri Lankan army from wiping out all signs of Tamils in Sri Lanka, as is happening even now through settlements. India, together with the IC, has an inexorable obligation to ensure a just order for Tamils.

Thinking-Sinhalese too realize that their own well-being and advancement depend on reaching a modus vivendi with minorities. However, there are obstacles to progress from inveterately entrenched communal forces. This is why liberal-minded Sinhalese are scared to put forward the required solutions. Research shows that many Sinhalese are willing to devolve power to Tamil areas but fear, for electoral reasons, being public about it. Only India has the wherewithal to assist and strengthen those Sinhalese who support a rights-based society.

Connectivity through Palaly Airport

I assess that India is mindful of the obligations that devolved upon it with the Thirteenth Amendment and helping Sri Lanka triumph over the LTTE. It is overdue for the IC to blunt the prevailing triumphalism here and build peace with rights for all. As India’s Consul in Jaffna, Shri S. Balachandran sees it, enhanced connectivity is the need of the hour:

“Strong people-to-people ties are key to strong bilateral relations. In this regard, we consider connectivity as an important factor to further strengthen people to people ties. Sri Lankan Government is keen to start short haul flights from Palaly to airports in South India at the earliest. We are working with GoSL so that we can transform this dream into reality soon.”

I believe that Prime Minister Wickremesinghe shares this vision as I heard him at Jaffna University’s Engineering Faculty promising the airport soon; but it has not happened.

Inexcusable Delay and Excuses

The delay entails huge losses to our economy given the advantages of an international airport at Palaly. First, the increased trade. Then the millions of tourists to India will see Sri Lanka as contiguous and hop over. Once in Jaffna, it would be natural to visit Polonnaruwa, Anuradhapura, Sigiriya, and the beautiful beaches of the East. 

Add to that the convenience of our travelers to India. The Jaffna Consulate entertains visa applications only from the 5 districts of the North. In 2016, some 25,000 travelers were given visas. By 2018, the number had risen to 30,000. Imagine the waste in travelling from Jaffna to Colombo Airport and then flying back over Jaffna to India. The diversion of so many passengers from Colombo, some think is bad, but it could save funds presently expended on more runways and terminals at over-crowded Katunayake. 

In 2015, when the air-force held 7800 acres of land, many Tamils too, including it is said the Chief Minister, objected to the airport thinking all that land would be swallowed up. Some southerners objected to the losses to Colombo tour operators if tourists started their journeys from Jaffna. But is it fair to keep the North as a backwater and prevent its development?

Excuses have been trotted out ignoring the advantages to Sri Lanka’s economy. The 1.6 km runway with only 1 km in good condition is not good enough argued our airports authority. India promptly had a team come and OK the airport and generously offered to repair the 600 m of bad runway. India also offered to develop the airport with customs and immigration facilities. But Sri Lanka continued to balk. 

A US medical team, Operation Pacific Angel, in Aug. 2016 brought equipment in a huge plane (“as tall as a Palmyra tree”). That convinced Tamils that the aviation authorities’ excuses were just that – excuses. By then the land had been released by the air force and only 3400 acres remained, abating Tamil suspicions that the airport was an excuse to keep the land.

India’s High Commissioner HE Taranjit Singh Sandhu visiting on 20 July, 2018 pressed for an agreement and promised that India was ready to fly 4 months later on Deepavali Day, 2018. Sri Lanka argued that they had only 150-seat planes and not the 70-seaters required. India countered to arrange for these planes on lease with 2 flights each day for India and Sri Lanka, so that Sri Lanka would earn the lease payments. No deal!

A Lot More to the Reluctance

Clearly Sri Lanka is not voicing its real objections. This is seen in PM Wickremesinghe – who wants the airport – having agreed to it as part of the arrangement under which the TNA has been supporting the government and is insisting that the government keep its side of the bargain. Wickremesinghe as a free market advocate also knows what good the expanded airport can do for Sri Lanka. Yet, when he speaks of the advantages of Palaly airport he speaks only of flights to Hyderabad and Bangalore and rarely of flights to Chennai or Trichy. 

The real objection seems the Sinhalese fear of being overwhelmed by “hordes of Tamils” who would come to work here and take away jobs – a replay of the 1930s when Tamils from Tamil Nadu came as labourers. That xenophobia brought out the worst in the Sinhalese, prompting D.S. Senanayake to rant on New Year’s day, 1939: “We are one blood and one nation. We are a chosen people. The Buddha said that his religion would last 5500 years. That means that we, as the custodians of that religion, shall last as long.” 

Not to be outdone, SWRD Banadaranaike joined the refrain, “I am prepared to sacrifice my life for the sake of my community, the Sinhalese. If anybody were to try to hinder our progress, I am determined to see that he is taught a lesson he will never forget. 

For that, an admiring Mrs. Srimathie Abeygunawardena “likened Mr. Bandaranaike to Hitler and appealed to the Sinhalese community to give him every possible assistance to reach the goal of freedom.” (Above three quotations from Rajan Hoole’s Arrogance of Power.)

Fighting Xenophobia: The New Tamil Nadu

Xenophobia has destroyed Sri Lanka. Fighting it takes courage, not pandering to it by hiding facts from the public. Knowledge is the best weapon.

Ignorance fosters racism. It feeds our egos to think Tamils are backward and they will, given the airport, come to us in droves to take over Sri Lanka. It comforts us to think that we are at the mountain-top and that Tamil hordes from Tamil Nadu will come to steal our jobs.

But what is the new reality?  Sri Lankan Tamils might have been successfully reduced to the rubbish heap, but not the Tamils of Tamil Nadu as even Sri Lankan Tamils, in their own arrogance, fail to see the advances made by their Indian brethren.

In reality, Tamil Nadu is one of the most vibrant Indian states since the liberalization of 1991. With 6% of the population, it is 9.6% of India’s economy with a GDP of 250 billion US$ – compared to Sri Lanka’s 87 billion US$. 

40% of the relevant age cohort is in university. It is far superior in having doctors, with every district having specialty hospitals. It receives the highest number of tourists among Indian states, and is the most urbanized Indian state. It has an installed power capacity of 23,000 MW (against Sri Lanka’s 4000 MW) of which 45% is renewable!

TN’s once weak indices, literacy, and life-expectancy, are now comparable to Sri Lanka’s. Population growth is zero. There is no chance that Tamils will come here for jobs. Instead, wheat-eating North Indians go there for menial jobs. The daily wage-rate there is SLRs. 2500, compared to our SLRs 1500. It will be easier for our rice-eaters to get job considering TN’s lower cost of living and cultural fit.

The Good News

The hot news that I received, with pictures, on the 13th from Uthayan’s N. Logathayalan is that the PM and Mangala Samaraweera have put their foot down and the building of the airport is progressing into an international airport over the last few days. India is finalizing a 300 million LKRs Palaly aid-package. Despite the talk of a 1.6 km runway, a 3.8 km runway is being built to provide an international airport. MPs Sumanthiran and Mavai Senathirajah are dedicated to ensuring the PM’s honouring their agreement.

In keeping with the tradition of the name “Bandaranaike International Airport,” the request has been made to name this “Thanthai Chelva International Airport.” The PM will be in Jaffna on the 16th instant to examine progress.

Thanks to India, Sri Lanka is being pulled into the Comity of Civilized Nations.

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Latest comments

  • 4
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    Ranjith(SPRRW)
    Failed Sorcerer

    What happened to typing? Please slow down.
    You are waving your magic wand too fast hence your typing seems to have disappeared altogether from this forum.

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    PM ” Yet, when he speaks of the advantages of Palaly airport he speaks only of flights to Hyderabad and Bangalore and rarely of flights to Chennai or Trichy. “

    IT hubs, Hyderabad and Bangalore. He is all about connectivity. SL PM is next generation hip!

  • 0
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    It is more than a matter of toilets, but what kind of toilets? Where does our excrement go?

    There seem to be off the hip, ill-informed comments on Tamil Nadu not having toilets. What is the reality?

    While it may be true that SL has 92% sanitation coverage as we boast (the best in South Asia), the whole truth is that SL does not have a proper Underground Sewerage System (UGSS) except Colombo. Even that is only partly positive because Colombo’ excrement is dumped in the sea. Our then 7 year old son, when we stayed at a seaside hotel, took a sea bath close to the shore in 2005, and to our concern and disgust came back to us with a large piece of excrement on his head. That was in Colombo, mind you.

    Outside Colombo in places like Jaffna where I live, this means the toilet water goes into the water aquifer and the same contaminated water is drunk by people through wells and borewells. Tamil Nadu has UGSS in many of its cities and towns and has achieved a lot after the Swachh Bharat Movement (cleanliness drive) of 2014-2015.

    Please visit https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Indian_states_and_union_territories_ranked_by_prevalence_of_open_defecation
    for a ranking of Indian states that are “Open Defication Free.” Tamil Nadu is 100% free — that is all households have toilets.

    In contrast we in Jaffna have many new fancy hotels with modern toilets but their sewage goes underground. They typically refuse to serve tap water with our meals and insist that we buy bottled water. They say their water tastes bad but is probably used in cooking. I have tried hotel water which I found salty but with what other contamination I do not know. I suspect it is because all that sewage comes back through the well and water-tank, and then through the drinking-cooking water.

    Someone is making good money authorizing all there fancy hotels without a proper sewage system. (Of late the municipality is insisting that the septic tanks have the floors cemented for house-permit approval. As a result there are tanks that get full in 2-3 months and the household needs to call in a bowser service run by the municipality and private companies to pump out the sewage. Nonetheless, there are already lakhs of houses contaminating the ground water, and there are new houses that skirt the problem greasing palms).

    Let’s please focus on how advanced Tamil Nadu is. We should attract their companies and get our children admitted to their universities. We need to go there for cheaper and more advanced medical treatment. With TN having the largest number foreign tourists visiting among Indian states, we need to target a small fraction at least coming over through Palaly and perhaps a new KKS harbour too. That is the way to uplift our people out of the backwater, drinking our own toilet water

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      S.R.H. Hoole,
      ~
      Underground sewage usually decomposes and becomes soil, doesn’t it? In Jaffna probably (fingers-crossed) it goes through a soil filtration and decomposition process and never reaches the aquifer. Otherwise everybody would have sickened long ago and died. Anyway, toilet situation in TCN is pretty dim for the poor Dalaits: http://www.newindianexpress.com/states/tamil-nadu/2018/jan/10/tnie-exclusive–tamil-nadu-village-sarvarajanpettai-toilet-yes-water-no-for-dalits-loos-still-1749299.html

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        TN (Tamil Nadu) I mean, and not TCN ~

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      How disgusting, but facts have to be faced.
      .
      RTF, I think that you are quite right, about sewage decomposing underground, and actually becoming excellent fertiliser. Our objection is to human excreta, and I’m sure that it is with reason. When one is not sure, best to be undogmatic. I feel that there may be organisms in human waste that could spread infections to other humans – and as usual we humans don’t worry over-much about what happens to other life-forms.
      .
      After all, there is general agreement that cow dung is the best fertiliser that is commonly available, but even that should be buried only after short exposure to the atmosphere. In the case of poultry manure from deep-litter cages, it is necessary to not only to expose for longer, but also to mix with other substances (what substances, the farmer knows, not I) before burying. I guess that this has a lot to do with the very different digestive systems of cattle and poultry. My guess is that since the elephant’s digestive system is notoriously inefficient (the reason for it requiring so much vegetative food each day), its dung could be almost immediately buried as manure.
      .
      Your reasoning is fine, provided each house has a large garden, and wells, if any, are far from toilets. What I have given in the preceding paragraph are only the hypotheses that any layman could formulate. But when Prof. Hoole speaks of water aquifers, bore wells and fancy hotels in the flat-as-a-pancake Jaffna Peninsula which has low rainfall, he’s talking about instances where we have interfered far too much Nature. A serious scientist has to go into this question.
      .
      tbc

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      Continuing, RTF:
      .
      What I see in your comment, RTF, is a good deal of reasoning and seemingly unprovocative and decent writing. However, isn’t it true that yours is the knee-jerk reaction of most Sinhalese to anything written by a Tamil?
      .
      In large cities, the situation is very different. Both underground sewage systems and independent pipe-borne water become necessary. They say the sewage has to be “treated” before being dumped somewhere. Now, what does that mean? Adding chemicals which are bound to cause other forms of pollution, or it must be that huge quantities of potential fertiliser are destroyed? Well, we can’t have it both ways! The fact is that there are just too many of us humans now on this planet, and we are upsetting the balances of nature that existed until we founded our civilisations.
      .
      Yes, and so it is the richest humans that have their way, and the poorest suffer. But can’t we take the politics and various prejudices out of our comments? What I see in response to an article that ought to set us thinking is a lot of stock racist-based reactions.
      .
      No, RTF, you are not the worst of racists, but this sort of thinking is latent in all of us, I guess. Commercial Interests try to make us forget these. The media is manipulated by advertising, so the plain truth rarely reaches us.
      .
      The Guardian is a newspaper that tries to be different – to be run without advertising revenue:
      .
      https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2019/aug/17/plastic-recycling-myth-what-really-happens-your-rubbish
      .
      Given what that reports, we must inform the Brits that they have been detected sending us lots of their waste.
      .
      tbc
      .

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      Continuing . . .
.
Now, at boring length, for my own observations, which confirm what Prof. Hoole says.
      .
      About fifteen years ago, I bought a ten-year-old house in Maharagama. One boundary is the hundred-year-old Dental Nurses’ Training School. About three acres of land there, sloping down towards our house. At the bottom of their garden, there is an enormous well, which used to supply excellent water. Not any more.
      .
      Mine is a large enough up-stair house, built on only six perches of land. There are well-constructed underground tanks for waste-water, and sewage – or so we were told by the man who sold us the house. The sewage tank is only about fifteen feet from that well. And he was a decent enough man. For the past ten years, however, no water has been drawn from it, except to water plants. Lots of lumps began to be detected in the water. I don’t have to explain, do I?
      .
      That well is possibly worth more than our house! Some of the Dental School employees have wryly told us that the local authorities ought never to have authorised the building of our house – the Public Health Inspector must have been bribed. My wife’s conscience stung, she wanted to do some more building underground, using up all our savings. I was able to prevail on her to give up that mad-cap scheme by pointing out that the chances of permanent success of such a hare-brined scheme were remote.
      .
      Having drawn all the necessary lessons, we continue to co-exist. We know that there must be strict regulations, to be observed by all.
      .
      As for swimming in the Indian Ocean – I lived in Male, Maldives, many decades ago.

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        S_M; Edrisinghe,
        *
        What you call racism, knee jerk racism, and moderate racism is not racism at all, but a deep innate caring and love for the Motherland. Aren’t your thoughts and comments racist towards the Masses of our country which are Buddhist?
        *
        In city and suburban areas, we can’t use wells anymore. We have to use pipe water. Well-water is for rural area where communities are more spread out and more septic tank systems are used. You can’t try to live the rural life in suburbia and then sit complaining about the well-water. Use instead your cleaned and treated pipe water which most of our governments have diligently strived to maintain.
        *
        India might have gone on a campaign to build many facilities for human excrement (most were communal facilities). They must have also tinkered a bit with the sewage disposal like in the underground disposal systems. But they are still a long, long way from Sri Lanka’s relatively sophisticated sewage disposal. We cannot deal too much with the Indian masses till they fix their broken systems. The more they send probes to Mars and rockets to the Moon, the more their masses will face grave hardships (although we know it was the S. Asian mathematics and system of equations that created the space-age in the first place).
        *
        In our land, what has happened in recent decades is a forced exodus of people from the rural to the cities, with mostly the minorities building, building-upon-building, for short term profits for themselves. Now if Gotabaya becomes president, we can be sure he will ensure greater structural planning for our cities and suburbs, including mostly its sewage systems.

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          The point is, dear RTF, that I’m writing this from remotish Bandarawela. I’d have loved to visit places outside Asia, but that has never happened – the grave beckons me now.
          .
          Don’t you see the irony of your pontificating from America to a guy who gets persecuted every way, just for telling the truth? I know that you care deeply – in your own way, but from your luxury abroad.
          .
          Since I also know that you are decent, may I ask that you go across here to see what horrors are inflicted on guys like me:
          .
          https://www.colombotelegraph.com/index.php/does-legality-matter-at-all/comment-page-1/#comments
          .
          As you can see things have got incredibly nasty because I want a proper election for the “Teachers’ Representative” on the Board of Governors of S. Thomas’. But this Headmaster fellow won’t allow it, and the rest of the alumni don’t realise that the teachers must be treated with respect. Those alumni who turn up don’t want to acknowledge that the school has now got much worse English (that great status symbol here!) than many of the State Schools in the town. I’ve never been a teacher in this school, although I was (quite literally) born (sic) there – as you well know, dear RTF. Yes, other readers, RTF really knows the problems I’ve faced because she read them up forty months ago. She really isn’t such a bad egg, you know.
          .

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          I’ve given you the Headmaster’s name – so it should be clear to you that I could use so-called ethnicity to rouse people against him. I don’t. The guy had been fortunate enough to study there – his pater had been “Estate Staff” [you may know what that meant in the Plantation Raj that the Brits bequeathed to us], but neither he, nor his identical-twin-like elder brother has even paid up to join the OBA.
          .
          Try to understand that issues are much more complex than you realise. I can’t even visit the Maldives, although I’d love to explore those coral reefs again. Gota manages to get all that done whether he’s President or not. Don’t you get it yet? I’ve been a village school-master, genuinely working at grass-roots.
          .
          I will be near top of the list of targets for the murderer Gota if he becomes President. You know that that is chillingly true, don’t you RTF?
          .
          By the way, RTF, do take a look at the article in which Prof. Hoole exposed the corruption in his own Anglican Church.
          .
          https://www.colombotelegraph.com/index.php/the-church-of-ceylon-unethically-chasing-a-dream-to-be-a-province/
          .
          You probably gave it a miss.
          .
          So, you don’t realise that you are the privileged now, and I the underprivileged.

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        Completing what’s got cut off owing to the word limit rule.
        .
        Prof Hoole went to the Maldives to see how they were going to vote for President in September last year. See what an outspoken report he put out:
        .
        https://www.colombotelegraph.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/04/Report-of-the-Sri-Lankan-Observer-Mission-to-the-Maldivian-Presidential-Election-of-23-Sept.-2018.pdf
        .
        I got that from here:
        .
        https://www.colombotelegraph.com/index.php/the-maldivian-parliamentary-elections-2019-where-a-happy-result-can-be-predicted/
        .
        Written by Panini Edirisinhe (aka “Sinhala_Man”)
        .
        I’ve not been there for 25 years, but still can’t forget how wonderful the coral reefs there are. But we just couldn’t swim around the capital, Male. It was considered a very crowded place even then, and sewage was pumped into the sea – treated or untreated, I don’t know. The mind boggles at the thought of what it must be like today. But they must be managing it all very well. In Mohamed Nasheed they’ve got a wonderful leader, and see how he doesn’t mind playing the second fiddle that was forced on him by the earlier dictator. Yameen. And President Ibu Solhi has not lost his head – but I don’t have even their contact details to ask for favours. Never expected them.
        .
        Learn from that RTF.

        • 0
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          BS Edrisinghe! You’re just trying to implicate Gota.

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