5 March, 2024


Polluting Governance

By Tisaranee Gunasekara

“The Nazi leaders….treated Germany like a conquered land, a colony to be used and abused without consideration, to be exploited to the full, and its national spirit, happiness and wellbeing to be sedulously ignored” – Sebastian Haffner (Germany: Jekyll & Hyde)

Mahinda REvery year, the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) releases a chart revealing the sulphur-content in the fuel used by different countries. Until 2012, the sulphur-content in the diesel used in Sri Lanka was 500ppm (parts per million)[i]. In 2013, the sulphur-content in Lankan diesel shot up astronomically, beyond 2000ppm[ii]. Thanks to this colossal increase (more than 300%) in just one year, our island-home has joined the category of countries with highest levels of sulphur in their fuel[iii].

According to a 2008 UNEP study, people with asthma and lung/heart disease, children and the elderly are particularly vulnerable to emissions from high-sulphur fuels. These emissions are also carcinogenic and visibility-impairing. They cause acid rain, forest/crop damages and soil-acidification and accelerate the decay of building materials and even vehicles[iv].

Toxic air does not abide by man-made boundaries. The sudden mountainous hike in the sulphur-content in our diesel should be a matter of utmost concern to all Lankans. How did this colossal hike occur? From where did we get these contaminated fuel-consignments? Did the cabinet approve them knowingly?

The CPC is claiming that it will import fuel with a sulphur-content of 500ppm in 2014. Given the ever-growing gulf between Rajapaksa reality and really existing reality, can those promises be trusted?

This is not the only polluted summit we reached in 2012/2013; “Sri Lanka is the highest user of agro-chemicals in the world”, according to Prof. Shanthi Mendis, Non-communicable Diseases Director of the WHO[v]. Quoting a WHO/UN internal report, The Island reveals that Sri Lanka leads the world in overall agrochemical usage in 2012/2013 (471 units per hectare). Sri Lanka also leads the global-pack in the use of pesticides (187 units per hectare). We are currently in the 8th place in fertilizer usage (284 units per hectare).

According to Dr. Navin de Soysa, General Committee member of the GMOA, “The GMOA had learnt from a reliable source that some officials employed in the Agricultural Ministry were also doing part-time jobs in agro-chemical importing companies”[vi]. Are the authorities aware of this toxic situation? Are there any connections between powers-that-be and companies importing agro-chemicals?

From contaminated diesel and contaminated food to contaminated water; according to the Daily Mirror, a problem has risen about the quality of calcium hypochlorite (Lime), the chemical used to purify drinking water. The report quotes an anonymous ‘senior technical source’ at the Ambatale water-purification plant: “The minimum level of Calcium Carbonate is 80% for the full purification of water but we have detected that the level of the stock of Lime supplied recently had only 76% of Calcium Carbonate which means it is possible that the water may not have been purified to the accepted level”[vii]. The Additional Manager of the Water Supply Project admitted that one consignment imported from China was ‘greenish instead of pure white and the concentration of calcium carbonate…was only 76%’ but insisted that the questionable stock was not distributed.

Is that the truth or a convenient cover-up? Given the way the regime seems to be meddling with key economic statistics, can quality-tests conducted by government institutions be trusted?

The Rajapaksas are getting away with these criminal malpractices not just because the Opposition is weak but also because we, the people, are failing to think and act like citizens. After all, when the air we breathe, the food we eat and the water we drink are contaminated, our health and wellbeing are directly affected. These are not mere esoterica or even matters of abstract principles but concerns which are of personal and immediate relevance to all Lankans living in Sri Lanka.

With our health and wellbeing at stake, why do we stay silent and inactive?

Polluting Minds

Commenting on the mass psychology which enabled Nazism, Sebastian Haffner said that most Germans suffered from the “lack of gift of seeing simple things simply and of believing their eyes”.

Do we share this affliction?

Are we failing to see the obvious truth about Rajapaksa governance for the same reason we failed to look through those outlandish Rajapaksa lies about ‘Humanitarian Operations’ and ‘Welfare Villages’.

The Fourth Eelam War was unavoidable because of the nature of the LTTE. Had the Tigers wanted to prevent a new war they would not have engineered the defeat of Ranil Wickremesinghe. The war was unavoidable and a Tiger victory would have been disastrous even from the point of Lankan Tamils (Incidentally, how many of those Diaspora-hardliners who pontificate from the safety of their Western homes offered to share the fate of the LTTE or ordinary Lankan Tamils during the war? How many of them sent their underage children to fight at the side of child-conscripts? How many would have relocated to Eelam, had the Tigers won?)

What was unnecessary and dangerous was the unquestioning acceptance of the Rajapaksa lies about the war.

When you accept that a brutal war can be waged without causing a single civilian casualty, you embrace limitless gullibility as a virtue.

By ceding to the Rajapaksas the power of infallibility, we became accustomed to blindness and deafness, to unquestionable acceptance and uncritical support, to faith sans commonsense and obedience sans foresight.

Today we ignore the mushrooming of new ethno-religious flash-points, the geometric increases in pollution levels and debt levels, child rape and custodial murder. We (especially the educated, and supposedly cosmopolitan, middle/upper classes) opt to suspend our natural intelligence and critical faculties, ignore societal malaises and economic brutalities, and gawp, like so many simpletons, at the neat parks and orderly walkways, the high-rises, the highways and other super-expensive physical infrastructure projects.

Even when we are made aware of the repercussions of Familial Rule, we cling to the inane belief that only the ethno-religious, political or socio-economic ‘Other’ can be affected.

As Tagore warned, “Even the monarch cannot afford to set fire to the cottage of the lowliest of his subjects, lest the flames should be blown palacewards”[viii].

Just two minutes before 2014 dawned, the VIP platform at Colombo Hilton’s New Year bash collapsed, injuring dozens[ix]. A Presidential offspring was among the revellers at this extravaganza, named ‘Wonderland’[x] and organised by ‘Cantaloupe Playground’[xi] a subsidiary of ‘The Kingdom of Cantaloupe’[xii].

This is a disaster unprecedented in the history of New Year celebrations in Colombo hotels. The bombastic creation and spontaneous deconstruction of this faux ‘Wonderland’ are symbolic and symbiotic of the Rajapaksa ethos of criminal negligence of quality and suicidal indifference to consequences.

A participant complained online that the Hilton staff did nothing to help the injured revellers[xiii]. Helping even a stranger used to be a Lankan characteristic. Not anymore. During the last stages of the war, pitilessness towards the ‘inimical Other’ was turned into a patriotic virtue by the Rajapaksas. For the minor employees of Hilton[xiv], those young revellers capable of spending Rs.13,000/- for a VIP ticket would have seemed alien, perhaps inimical, and thus – as per the dominant Rajapaksa ethos – undeserving of even ordinary kindness.

[vii] Daily Mirror – 23.12.2013

[viii] Greater India

[xiv] Some of whom may become jobless soon, since the hotel is supposed to close for a major refurbishment.


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Latest comments

  • 1

    Tisaranee Gunasekara,

    It’s more appropriate to call it perverting governance.

    • 2

      Come on Thiru. Cheer her louder!

      You want find anyone better taking the government to task than this lady. She gives us choice quote after uote and puts the most unflattering photos of MR every 2-3 days.

      She is good enough to be PM of this country one day, when she wins an election or not.

  • 4

    Yes. Very soon the infrastructure projects will also start falling apart and the cost of repairing them will begin. No one will want to govern this country and slowly the jungles will take over while the population rapidly falls due to its old friend MALARIA that can easily knock out a few millions every year. Within about five years we will be down to around 5 million people, most of them sick and dying.

    Then the white man will come and start an economy and the white women will clean up and the christian priests will set up schools and teach our children how to say good morning, please and thank you and how to play together without fighting and killing each other.

  • 7

    This is the era that MR had to put bribery charges against their own party men. THis is not becuase MR wants to punish his bad men, but to intimidate them be in line with Mahinda Chinthana. -:)

    Are’nt we a proud nation who elected these jokers ?

  • 4

    Madmen Rajapakses have mesmerized the Sinhala masses into a crowd psychological frenzy – inciting hate of ‘others’ – which will end up like the Nazis eventually.

  • 1

    The photograph clearly and truthfully depicts “There is BLOOD in my hands”??

  • 1

    Your writing once again questions what the Sinhala Intelligentsia is
    doing about all spheres of activity now in Sri Lanka. It is the same
    attitude of the Sinhala Modaya will be the answer.

    The Regime will get along come what may – their patriotism!

  • 1

    Air,Food and Water contamination are urgent matters,but our legislaters are busy otherwise,fighting among themelves.
    Kidney,Lung and Gastrointestinal diseases have become endemic.
    It appears that the government is not much bothered.

  • 0

    According to published data, limits on sulfur content are typically less than 50 parts per million (ppm) in developed countries, and often less than 15 ppm. However, the sulfur level in diesel fuel in many developing countries, including in Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC), is still very high. Chile, Costa Rica, Puerto Rico and Virgin Islands are the only countries in the Latin America and Caribbean region which currently utilize low sulfur diesel fuel (sulfur levels below 50 ppm). Other countries across the region are in the process of transitioning towards low sulfur fuels, but this is happening too slowly whilst other countries have no regulatory plans in the pipeline.

  • 2

    Or, are the wise Rajapakses, deeply concerned of the rise in population explosion, encouraging a surreptitious programme of
    reducing our numbers – fast and in substantial numbers. The able Cabinet Ministers are already getting into the act and simultaneously making their pile-ups of black money in conniving to import sub-standard drugs and Fertilizers, fuel, water-purification chemicals.


  • 2

    Don’t worry sulphur ain’t the only poison that will kill us…..very soon this poison regime will suck us dry for every penny we have in order to build the shangri la dreams.

  • 1


    You ask this very pertinent question,

    “With our health and wellbeing at stake, why do we stay silent and inactive?”

    Surely you know the answer. Is there anyone foolish enough to raise any embarrassing question or mount any kind of opposition to the present GOSL. On this count I think the Sri Lankans are an astute lot -silence preserves lives.

    • 1

      BBS Rep

      Come Elections They will Vote any way to MR.

      Only thing he has to do is Yell Tiger|

      Long Live Sri Lanka with Dead Dem O Crazy.

      We Get what we deserve. The Fire we ignited will cinsume not only the shanties but the Places Too.

  • 0

    Ms T wants her educated, intelligent , middle and upper middle class mates to get out of their luxury high riser pads, and stop power walks in our new promnades, breathing bad Sulphur Dioxide fumes pumped out by Rajapaksas…

    And stop their beautuful kids dancing to to the tunes of Misty Blue on the Hilton’s dodgy stage.to bring the New Year.

    Is this the new battle cry from our number one Sinhala Buddhist basher, to the Cmopolitan Intelligentia to rise against Rajapaksa.

    Haven’t they done that already?

  • 1

    Well said, Tissaranee.

  • 0

    My vehicle diesel common rail stranded three times within six months due to this inferior quality super diesel. Mostley pumped at the pertol shed next to arpico centre at BATTARAMULLE. I had incured big losses for repairs. To whom can i complain please .Who will pay for my losses. i can produce documenary proof. I will thank you if you can enlighten me. H. Jayasena

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