24 June, 2024


Philip Gunawardena: Who Is Ready To Serve ?

By Ranil Senanayake

Dr. Ranil Senanayake

On taking a new road.

The Hon, Philip Gunawardena was a product of a time when this nation which had focused on social upliftment as the development goal. As stated by the Hon D.S. the performance of my govt must be gauged by the larder of the poorest of our homes. In November 1932, he plunged into active politics organising rural peasants, plantation workers and urban workers.

Philip Gunawardena is remembered as the architect of the Paddy Lands Act which brought relief to the tenant cultivator  and  his politics is reflected in a statement in July, 1967,

“I have always said that I will work with any group of people who are ready to develop this country, who are ready to defend the independence of this country, who are ready to serve the people of this country. Let it be any group of people – Yes, not only with the devil, but with the devil’s grandmother.”

But as the goals of development changed from social goals to economic goals, these values were lost and the price this nation paid for the resulting frustration was heavy and continues to be a burden on our national psyche even today. The dissatisfaction at that time grew into a ‘revolution’ of the youth. The ferocity with which we attacked our children left us with a tragic history.

In 1971 it is reported that the government ‘removed’ up to 20,000 or more of the educated. Those who attended university, demonstrated interest in radical politics, were young or unemployed were singled out for liquidation. The next progrom was in the late 1980s when over 40,000 were ‘removed’ with hardly a word being uttered in protest on any international stage. These people never passed their genes on. Genetically speaking, we removed from our race a large percentage of the traits for high intellectual potential and activism. The carnage did not stop there.

Philip Gunawardena

I have been one of the many thousands of Sinhalese who rushed out to help our Tamil brethren in the face of the centrally organized goon squads and mob arousers that were set loose on the country in 1983. Living in the village at Mirahawatte, it was very clear that the attacks were directed and carried out by outsiders. No one from my village participated. Yet, up to today, the Sinhalese people are made to carry the blame and the shame for the atrocious action, conducted at the behest of a group of very misguided people. All these actions make for a national tragedy that we have still not dealt with. We must aknowledge the pools of blood we live upon and the fact that our society was not given an opportunity to grieve, nor has there  been any move towards reconciliation to date.

Let me share with you my emotions and sorrow, I experienced as I watched us descend into broken nation :

The lesson

Screaming, screaming, screaming, screaming

with pain and with fear

The new way of justice

A way that is clear

The tranquil buzz of crickets

the tinkling of Bush Frogs

momentarily drowned.

An agonized scream

and then the fearful quiet.

The tranquil buzz of crickets

The tinkling of Bush Frogs

seems a little sober now.

We all know……

A lesson has been taught

and we the pupils,

how well we all learn.

Two bodies, mutilated

broken limbs in a parody

of a dance they once performed

in kinder times

in times when

they were weaned away

from their fathers ways

to the knowledge of the modern world

Science, Philosophy, Art,

Would they, as they walked,

breathless ,

to the wonder of this modern thought,

carefree in the gift of youth,

envisioned, the roadside warning pyre

a broken end,

the burning tyres.

Mothers crying, wide terrified eyes

as a ruthless noose encircles.

They run, they hide

their children.

those special ones

the ones more bright

the idol of the family

from the coming night.

The names of friends, colleagues

the participants

in discussions

of futures

of politics

of a world to make

are wrenched from screaming minds

as nails and skin are wrenched

from screaming bodies.

even listening is a crime.

Screaming, screaming, screaming, screaming

with pain and with fear.

Is the world deaf,

that nobody hears ?

No, there was no one to hear, we were too engrossed in economic consumerist growth, fueled by fossil energy. The orgy of fossil consumption was encouraged publicly, in an  official communiqué displayed in the nation’s newspapers states “No oil means no development, and less oil, less development. It is oil that keeps the wheels of development moving”, .Sri Lankan Government communiqué 1979

Today the ‘consumerist development’ myth has been fully engrained into our social and political system. The enslavement of future generations is being negotiated now, as we accept unquestionably the establishment of an infrastructure that requires massive quantities of fossil energy to maintain it. Our position as a contributor to climate change is hypocritical. The destruction of who we were seems almost complete. Our farmers, made dependent on a fertilizer subsidy and toxins to produce food, are now the addicted customers of imported fossil energy.

This change was not without comment, in 1998 the Sri Lankan farmers addressed the CGIAR in Brasilia.They said :

“We, the farmers of Sri Lanka would like to further thank the CGIAR, for taking an interest in us. We believe that we speak for all of our brothers and sisters the world over when we identify ourselves as a community who are integrally tied to the success of ensuring global food security. In fact it is our community who have contributed to the possibility of food security in every country  since mankind evolved from a hunter-gather existence.  We have watched for many years, as the progression of experts, scientists and development agents passed through our communities with some or another facet of the modern scientific world. We confess that at the start we were unsophisticated in matters of the outside world and welcomed this input. We followed advice and we planted as we were instructed. The result was a loss of the varieties of seeds that we carried with us through history,  often spanning three or more millennia. The result was the complete dependence of high input crops that robbed us of crop independence. In addition we farmers  producers of food, respected for our ability to feed populations, were turned into the poisoners of land and living things, including fellow human beings. The result in Sri Lanka is that we suffer from social and cultural dislocation and suffer the highest pesticide related death toll on the planet.  Was this the legacy that you the agricultural scientists wanted to bring to us? We think not. We think that you had good motives and intentions, but left things in the hands of narrowly educated, insensitive people “

The signs of demise are thick about us. The soil of the mountains gets swept away in a bloody rush, everytime there is a hard rain. The quality of the once potable surface water throughout the island has been diminished by over 90 percent. The clogged up river systems are filled up, the  overflow basins reward us with flooding as a regular event. The high tree cover that this nation once boasted of, attaining over 35 meters, has now been whittled down to 15 meters or less.

More and more of our landscapes have large, increasing patches sparsely vegetated or bare. The quantity of airborne pollution reaches dangerous levels. The rate of growth of consumption of fossil fuel is increasing exponentially. The volume of toxins and endocrine disruptors being consumed by the public are being tragically reflected in the public health record. We are being pushed deeper and deeper into debt as we tout the energy profligate lifestyle as ‘development’. Can we find a way out ?.

The pioneering work of a new global direction in creating wealth began here, In Sri lanka we  focused on realizing the wealth of the rural sector that had been ignored by modern accounting and we embarked on the five year experiment with a group of war widows in Cheddikulam to demonstrate the validity of paying for the production of Primary Ecosystem Services (PES) The experiment was a resounding success and the Prime  Minister himself recognized the potential of creating value through PES and reported on its potential to the  parliament 2018  and participated the paying out the rewards of maintaining photosynthetic biomass and producing primary ecosystem services (PES). 2019 April

The initial research on Ecosystem Services was prompted by the massive global scam termed the Carbon Economy. A concept generated to allow the fossil emitters to get away with the pollution of the planet while making more money claiming to solve their pollution by planting trees, this was a global fraud as a tree with a lifetime of a thousand years can never lock up fossil Carbon the was sequestered for 200 million years.

But there is one aspect of burning fossil Carbon that we can effectively respond to. To burn one molecule of carbon to turn it into Carbon Dioxide it needs two molecules of Oxygen. The Carbon can never be neutralized unless it is put away for over a million years at least. But the Oxygen that was used to burn it, can be replaced within an year. Here lies an answer, pay for replacement of the Oxygen that you use.

And how do we generate Oxygen? Through the agency of photosynthetic biomass or the green leaves of trees and plants. In all farms all over the world, the only value that can be gained is through the sale of a crop, the trees and plants living on that farm has no value.

As the Oxygen stocks in the Global commons is currently being mined by industry, rocketry and war without any replacement, The Sri Lankan eco development company Earthrestoration has developed a series of smart contracts that place value on biomass and biodiversity. Protocols for Monitoring Recording and Validating (MRV) are being  tested even now through a joint venture with Aquae in the Emirates to institute Aqua Labs in Mirahawatte.

In closing, may I state that let me pharaphrase, the Hon. Philip Gunawardena;

I have always said that I will work with any group of people who are ready to develop this country, who are ready to defend the independence of this country, who are ready to serve the people of this country. Let it be any group of people.”

The only people to help us develop an Oxygen Economy is Rural Sri Lanka, if the political awareness  of this potential can be achieved Sri Lanka will lead the world in real development. Who is ready to serve?

* Speech given at the 54th commemoration of Phillip Gunawardena.  31 March 2024. Sri Lanka Foundation Institute.

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Latest comments

  • 1

    Sorry, can’t understand the relevance of Philip Gunawardena, nor the JVP rebellion (I assume) & the 83 riots to the current eco state of the country, dependence on fossil fuel & food production. All I can say is that if Philip Gunawardena had any good genes, he certainly has not passed them on to his son. His, so called ‘illustrious’ son is part of a decadent & corrupt political set that messed up the country.

  • 2

    Sri Lanken old left highly valued democracy they were not revolutionaries. Phillips, NM Dr. Wickramasingha, Robert Gonawardana were few of them. That did not satisfy younger generation so that They resorted to violence rebellions Rohana Wijeyaweera was one of them I suppose. Old left believed Democratic socialism. That meant reformed to existing social structure. That was why they cooperated with Right wing groups like SLFP, & UNP and all.

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