28 September, 2020

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Politics

By Ranil Senanayake

Ranil Senanayake

Ranil Senanayake

Current politics has degraded to a race to get control of the state’s resources in order to implement ‘development’ projects that line our path to ‘progress’ towards some unknown goal. No one proposes any clear path for the future well-being of the nation, only calls for the public to support their particular push for ‘development’ projects. This is then measured as progress. As Ananda Coomaraswamy notes ‘We who call art significant, not knowing of what, are also proud to progress, not knowing wither’. It seems we have not changed much since that time, merely continuing creating ‘development processes, as long as there are loans or money available. Often, many ‘development processes’ are not progressive but retrogressive, as seen in the plans for investment in coal as an energy source.

It is common knowledge that burning coal is a heath hazard. Innumerable studies have demonstrated the massive negative impact on human health and on cultural artifacts through the burning of coal, but the political system seems totally ignorant of such knowledge. This ignorance enables them justify the large losses in health to be suffered by the population. It is such ignorance that allows ‘agreements’ and contracts have greater value than the health and well being of the citizens of this nation. As an example, consider the debacle of the ‘Port City.’ A project implemented without any consideration of the reduced air quality of Colombo city, without informing the citizens of the price they will have to pay, is presumed valid because, the political powers subverted the laws of the land to approve it.

The current global development agenda is in many ways, anti-human. It seeks the development of an economic and monetary system its primary goal. The ‘Development of the Economy’, has become a mantra that will allow the discounting of human life. The Current Pope is one of the very few world leaders to speak directly to the problem; he has spoken out against the “idolatrous” capitalist economic models that “sacrifice human lives on the altar of money”. Will our current political contenders ever recognize the danger looming before us, move away from the current model and opt for a different vision of what development should mean? Can our religious leaders understand what the Pope is telling us?

The dangers looming before us are many and they are the consequence of a world driven by unbridled consumption of fossil fuels. We should not only question the intelligence of pinning our development processes on fossil energy, but should also examine the dangers that loom s a consequence of their use. Sadly, we seem to lack climate scientists who can convey the sense of urgency that the global data demands for the protection of our coastal communities. We are an island with an ever crowding coastline, when will the public be informed of the expected changes? The land zoning remains unchanged to-date, while the area of hard surface increases its cover over the southern beaches. A drive down the south coast is indeed a salutary experience, what were clear golden beaches just a few years ago, are now rock-covered shorelines.

The price we paid for ‘developing’ our agriculture is evident when we see the health misery wrought upon our farmers. In a country that practiced agriculture for over 2000 years without recording unusual kidney or blood diseases, should not the timing of the appearance of these diseases be of interest? It seems that the epidemic began around the late 1970’s. We should ask ourselves the question, ‘Did we change anything in our agricultural system around this time?’ The answer is ‘Yes, we did, we introduced the ‘Green Revolution’ package of agriculture to Sri Lanka to replace our traditional form of agriculture in the late 1960’s. This is yet another example of how destructive the current model of development is. The horror is just unfolding, last week a ten year old was brought in with kidney failure, what does it take for politics assume the responsibility to protect the well being of this nation? Looking for a single cause is pointless if the problem is systemic and synergistic.

Climate scientists warn of economic crisis and famine—with continental interiors drying out, the chief scientist at the U. S. State Department in 2009 predicted a billion people will suffer famine within twenty or thirty years and yet, we have not even considered any effect of such possibilities on us. It is as if we are on another planet and what happens to planet Earth will not affect planet Lanka. A one-degree rise in ocean surface temperature increases the intensity of hurricanes by 25%. With the current rise in oceanic temperatures, has any consideration been given to the possibility of such an event in planning the ‘development’ of the east coast?

We need a new, informed vision of our future in this changing world. We need to be insured against the upheavals that the future will bring. We need to plan intelligently for a sustainable future. A future that bespeaks of electrified transport for cities, of independent power production, efficient waste management, freedom from toxic environments and sustainable food production. Do we have any models of growth that seeks such a direction of development? Should not these goals be the subject of public debate and discussion, rather than the invective and slogan shouting that we see with the current political contenders?

Will politics and intelligence continue to be an oxymoron in this nation?

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Latest comments

  • 1
    0

    This is just an absolutely outstanding article that should to be sent to every politician and decision maker in the world.

    I have just returned to Australia after visiting several Pacific islands to review their Hospitals and Medical services. Some of the counties I visited, are half the size of what they were when I last visited them 40 years ago.

    Yet, the ‘oxymoron’ who is the Prime Minister of Australia recons that global warming is not a problem. What astounds me is why a country of 21 million people who are reasonably intelligent, cannot find reasonable people to govern them. one of the essentials to be a politician is the necessary to be an oxymoron.

    The same is true, very true, of Sri Lanka. i have met (and known) some of these oxymorons who have wrecked that country since Independence.

    My mother’s brother, a Marxist, one of the few non-oxymorons, told me “Its easy to be critical of politicians, but when the likes of you do Medicine, what do you expect?” He has a point.

    Brian Senewiratne

    • 1
      1

      Outstanding article no doubt. But how do we create this new-world-order? We have always known this. We have known this for some time. The West was almost coming upon this. But China! Yes, China started the downward trend with blatant copy-cat technique of post-colonial-capitalistic trend that the West was desperately trying to run away from, but did not know how.

      We can start the trend with Buddha’s land of Sri Lanka. We can start with the culture of Marxism cum Buddhism. It might initially be an authoritarianism one. It will be dictatorial for a time. Desperate times require desperate measures.

      All that is needed is the creation of traditional forest livelihood, farm livelihood, fishing livelihood. Those that wish to indulge in the capitalistic experience will be allowed to do so, with their taxes given to uphold and uplift the forest, farm and fishing livelihood.

      No more of money running way to the West in projected money creation operations that only makes individuals rich, but not Sri Lanka. No more unnecessary foreign investment into Sri Lanka that involves profits meant for the country, running away again to the West, for the Western experience.

      The world is waiting for some entity to show the way. Pope aside, it is Sri Lanka that needs to lead the way – Rome being too seeped in traditional capitalistic corruption (which it doesn’t know how to get out of). Sri Lankan Buddhism still has much of its Pureness left.

  • 5
    1

    Well, the end goal of politics should be to bring people joy and contentment. The 3 steps to joy and contentment are as follows:

    Morality -> Discipline -> Wisdom

    Morality is basic law and order i.e. The policing and justice system must work. Impunity should not thrive. People should not be allowed lie, steal, kill, gossip and consume toxicants such that things lead to chaos.

    Law and order creates a space to bring in discipline. Discipline comes when the 4-pillars i.e. the executive, the judiciary public service and the watch-dogs function as per the constitution.

    The 3rd and final step is wisdom. This is ability to think and be creative to solve complex problems. In order to reach higher order goals morality and discipline must thrive first. It can only come in a space of tranquility. Tranquility is created when the aforementioned steps are complete.

    In Pali the steps are known as Sila, Samadhi and Pragna.

  • 3
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    Thanks Ranil bringing us into reality. Devolepment or destruction is the question. Politics of today is selling the rights of the population to debt and self destruction and you are quite right in saying it is anti human. Poisoned daily by fertiliser – Carbide to ripen fruits that are on sale, insecticide in pulses, glutamates that cause obesity and cancer leaving alone the environmental destruction of deforestation and so called short sighted infra structure development. In Russia this year alone 20% of agricultural production declined because of climate change. Now to reality 2 out of 5 families suffer from infertility and childlessness. Before long we will need to import sperms. The people have no option. As you quite rightly say we are led by imbeciles.

  • 0
    0

    Ranil Senananayake

    Assume I am a politician, that I consider politics an investment, and that I am in politics to make money. Show me that even if I desist from acts you discourage, that still I can make money.

    Most of my politician colleagues also have the same goal.

    Look forward to hearing from you.

  • 1
    0

    Thank you, Ranil.

    You have identified and labeled – the root of some the REAL problems that Earth suffers from.

    Having done so, we need to come up with some fixes ( Internationally).

    The intelligentsia should be urged and encouraged to ” SAVE THE EARTH “.

    Nikola Tesla tried to harness energy without the use of fossil fuel but was never given a chance – due to greed.

    If you cant bill the hoi polloi – we are not interested.

    That was the attitude of the robber barons – in the BAD OLD DAYS –
    now the politicians have adopted the same attitude
    So, the future looks rather bleak!

  • 1
    1

    This backward nation is in a difficult, very difficult position. It has to be able to provide 300000 new jobs every year as Sarath de Alwis points out, yet only manages a mere 60000 or so. The rest apparently do no useful work and is an absolute waste of manpower. It is no surprise that anyone with the slightest ability to leave the island attempts to do so using any excuse possible, often to the detriment of our good name.

    The government and the opposition need to address this issue as a matter of urgency. The JVP insurgency and Tamil terrorism were the result in the not too distant past from the presence of a mass of ‘educated’ youth who were left twiddling their thumbs after leaving school/university. Sri Lanka was unfortunate in not having a generation of entrepreneurs as Taiwan and South Korea did, who were instrumental in providing the necessary jobs in those countries which have now progressed well beyond our dreams. There are however a few enterprising individuals today in the land who need government assistance to widen their horizons and create the jobs needed for the unemployed youth. We must certainly be proud that it is Sri Lankan created software that runs the London Stock Exchange. It is a waste to lure the best brains in the land to do Medicine as was done in the past, as it was do an Arts degree which was of little value to an employer.

    RW has promised a million new jobs over the next five years, BUT if history is anything to go by, his promises carry no weight. The island needs to rid itself of the Mr 10%s (or is it more) who seem to inhabit every nook and corner of the Parliament

  • 3
    1

    Superb!

    We do not know where we want to be and we are being led to where we should not be.

    It is we who are paying the price for this sad situation.

    The quotes from Dr.Ananda Coomaraswamy and the present Pope are apt.

    Ranil Senanayake has shown us the red light . Let us learn to think. He is the rare Philisopher-King in our midst. I hope he will write more on similar lines for our edification.

    Dr.Rajasingham Narendran

  • 2
    0

    as member of the farming community of eastern sri lanka,
    I am totally against the proposed Sampoor Coal power plant of Indians.
    And the Indian government’s cunningly, hastily preparation of the new bridge construction plan for across the Mannar bay linking Sri Lanka and India which may destroy our cultures too.

    this proposed Coal power plant will give us enough troubles after commissioning,
    it will destroy Water resources, agricultural Water tanks like Kanthale, Padaviya, prakrama samudra and minneryya weva,
    our inland and Sea fisheries with all habitats.
    our grass lands, paddy fields, marshy lands of Mahaweli Delta like Mavillaru with poisonous fumes and coal residues.
    mostly with sulphur particles.

    I am appealing to every individuals and/ or organisations who love our clean environments to help to stop that Coal power plat construction and
    force the government to find alternative sources with long term feasibility like Solar energy farm , wind turbines or Sea wave and tide to produce electricity to national grid connection

  • 0
    0

    Watch this youtube clip of David Attenborough’s address to the Royal Society and then read the comments that follow and you will see why the systainability issue will never be resolved. People only think short term. The vast majoirity of people will not think beyond their lifespans and the vast majority of politicians will not think beyond their terms in power. The damage we and they do to both the environment and economy are too long term to worry about now. There is nothing to stop humanity from marching to its doom like lemmings. It will happen.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XVNBZZ0O77w

  • 0
    0

    What are tangible steps should we take though. To my mind they are.

    1. Cover all roofs of all homes with Solar panels. Make this compulsory offering finance and subsidies to achieve the target in say 10 years.

    2. All motor vehicle manufacturers should be compelled to only produce vehicles that achive 60+ mpgs. Sri Lanka should ban the import of anything consumes more.

    3. An absolute ban on further deforrestation everywhere. Wheter it is for human settlement, irrigation or farming.

    4. Limiting the size of fishing vessels and reserving coastal waters exclusively for domestic fishing.

    5. Banning the export of fish and agricultural produce (including tea and rubber). Using our land only to feed our own people. I think every country should produce its own food and stop using their artificially strong currencies to cause land degradation in poor countries.

    6. Most importantly, limiting familiy sizes to 2 children. Ban fertility treatment and promote adoption of orphans.

    7. Place limits on floor areas of new houses. (to reduce use of sand, clay, firewood, fossil fuels)

    8. Place limits on land owership and controls on how land is used.

  • 1
    3

    Rajasingham,

    Do you not remember your absolute adulations of the projects of the Rajapaksa brothers that Ranil Senanayake’s criticism addresses, such as even the Port City one!?

    It was hardly a year ago, in what can be only described as servile reverence to the then royalty, you were insistent that all citizens and even the Diaspora express gratitude for the Rajapaksa brothers’ foresight, kindness, generosity and even sincerity in all the projects they so very graciously endowed on their subjects? When did that castle crumble?

    Or is this what should be or could be identified as “Both here and there” syndrome?

    Aren’t you just looking for all and any opportunity for a self-glorifying grandstanding – having nothing sincere or original to offer, and more importantly wanting to run from the “misadventures” of the past that are becoming difficult to shake-off.

  • 1
    0

    Keep up the good work, Ranil.

    Perhaps some day we will be fortunate enough to have enlightened leadership that will have the intelligence to understand what you are talking about and have the foresight to implement policies that will address these problems and try to reverse the processes that are ruining our beautiful Island.

    But let’s not hold our collective breath!

    Could the results of the next election be a step in the right direction?

  • 0
    0

    Ranil’s understandable analysis of what the Rajapaksas has done simply in the interests of aggrandizement of themselves and their friends cannot be faulted.

    However, the infinitely more important question is: why did those with the knowledge not simply stand up to be counted as being AGAINST the perpetrators – the Rajapaksa Regime – during the last TEN YEARS? I would submit that THAT is the million dollar question. After all aren’t ecological and other concerns about the well-being of HUMAN BEINGS, in this case the citizens of Sri Lanka, particularly the poorer and less powerful portions of our population? And isn’t standing up for them and seeking to remove those victimizing them the SINGLE most important thing?

    I remember a guy call Nero and what he was alleged to be doing while Rome was burning. We seem to have had too many Neros in Sri Lanka and their vacillation is going to cost us dear no matter what happens on August 17th!

  • 0
    0

    Emil,
    I am in agreement that many with knowledge did not stand up to the destruction of this land and the wellbeing of its people for decades. I have been writing on the issue and creating the alternate models on the ground for over forty years now (see my book, Clowns and Jokers, with thirty years of public commentary). So the culprits come from both sides of the political fence. The tragedy is that this nation has ignored the words of its founding farther the Rt.Hon. D.S.Senanayake when he commented that “the performance of my Government must be evaluated by the larder of the poorest of its homes”. The Neros who followed forgot this advice, invited ‘robber barons’ or acted like robbers barons themselves and called it ‘development’. It seems personal greed has become the hallmark of politics today. This is why I asked the question : “Will politics and intelligence continue to be an oxymoron in this nation?”. The destruction of the life support system of this nation and the beggaring of its people for the last FORTY yeas not just TEN, in the name of ‘development’ has to be questioned. Although our Neros still fiddle the ‘ development’ tune of the World Bank, IMF etc., we must stand up and fight them till rationality prevails in this nation. Frustrating, but this is what ‘bakthi pooja’ (a gift of love) to our motherland is all about.

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