23 June, 2024


Selling Their Birthright

By Ranil Senanayake

Dr Ranil Senanayake

“Can one generation bind another and all others, in succession forever?  I think not the creator has made the earth for the living, not the dead. Rights and powers can only belong to people, not things, not to mere matter.….. A generation may bind itself as long as it majority continues in life; when that has disappeared, another majority is in place holds all the rights and powers their predecessors once held, and may change their laws and institutions to suit themselves.”

“On similar ground it may be proved that no society can make a perpetual constitution, or even a perpetual law. The earth belongs always to the living generation.”

The two quotes above are from Thomas Jefferson who was an American Founding Father and the principal author of the Declaration of Independence, he later served as the third President of United States.

It illustrates with the shameful actions of the corrupt and hypocritical politicians who act as they are the only generation that should enjoy this nation and have no obligations to future generations.

What right has the politicians of today, halfway to their graves; squander the rights and privileges of the generations to come after them? What, greed and what lust for power makes them sacrifice the land that has protected generations before, to the whims of some foreign businessmen and bankers? From the monstrous invitation to the ‘robber barons’ to steal our resources, to the monstrous greed of ‘robber politicians’ who saddled us with the debt burden that we struggle under, to the monstrous hubris of a narcissist mob calling themselves ‘representatives of the people’, the tragic fate of the nation was to loose our national capital in a downward spiral. Now it looks like a bankrupt bunch of politicians are looking for ways to poison the earth and the water as their gift to the future generations.

Consider the ludicrous offer to give 15,000 acres of land to Chinese investors for industry. Not a word of what industries will be allowed, not a word about access to these lands for the sons and daughters of this soil. In a world where toxic and polluting industries are being driven away by laws that force them to adopt clean practices, it is not difficult to guess where such toxic and polluting industries will re-locate. They are looking for countries with leaders greedy or stupid enough to allow them to re-locate their toxic activities into.

Toxic industrial chemicals are industrial chemicals that are manufactured, stored, transported, and used throughout the world. Toxic industrial chemicals can be in the gas, liquid, or solid state. They can be chemical hazards (e.g., carcinogens, reproductive hazards, corrosives, or agents that affect the lungs or blood) or physical hazards. Many of these chemicals have a long lifetime and are retained as persistent pollutants in the soil. Toxic industrial chemicals also extend to radioactive substances, which have persistent values in hundreds or thousands of years. There is no guarantee that any industry that come into our lands will be required to abide by our environmental safeguards (as weak as they are) nor required to undertake any Environmental Impact Assessment EIA (as corrupt as they are).

There are the chemical and industrial disposal businesses looking for countries where they can carry on their dirty activities with no controls. Increasingly, they are being pressed to close operations in countries that bring in stringent controls, but even with controls they flout national laws, as seen in corporations like the example below in the US.

“Consider Radford’s permit, which expired nearly two years ago. Even before then, government records show, the plant repeatedly violated the terms of its open burn allowance and its other environmental permits. In a typical year, the plant can spew many thousands of pounds of heavy metals and carcinogens — legally — into the atmosphere. But Radford has, at times, sent even more pollution into the air than it is allowed. It has failed to report some of its pollution to federal agencies, as required. And it has misled the public about the chemicals it burns. Yet every day the plant is allowed to ignite as much as 8,000 pounds of hazardous debris.”

Another example is the massive contamination of the soil by toxic industries For instance, contaminants like trichloroethylene (TCE), a chemical that was used as a degreaser by companies that made tubing other was classified by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency as carcinogenic to humans sites, which closed the industry in 1999. However, the sites still spread TCE, plus some other volatile organic chemicals and some heavy metals, into the surrounding community via ground water and soil. Concentrations of TCE in some places on these sites are thousands of times higher than recommended by state health standards.

99 years of such unregulated activity on our soil? The current crop of politicians will be long dead and gone when the generations that come after struggle with the chains that the dead have bound them with. Any right thinking Sri Lankan must confront the politicians who do not consider the well being of the future generations and their rights to this land.  This is especially true for the youth of this nation, if they want to avoid a future that will be poisoned by the present, they will have to act now.  They will need to develop a politic that defends their rights and respects their needs or will they allow their land and their future to be poisoned by the ineffectiveness and greed of today ?

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Latest comments

  • 0

    MS is buying his passage to go to next life. Only if he knows that once he is switched off from his senses and functions, he will be mixing in his own toxic waste.

  • 0

    This is another eye opener by Mr Senanayake

    Many of us are ignorant of the hazards caused to the environment by modern chemicals & their waste treatment while others have resorted to accept the dangerous outcome due to sheer helplessness. We have a bunch of illiterate yobs in Parliament who unashamedly & blatantly exploit & abuse their power to make their own fortune at the expense of the country & the few educated politicians are no better. To the misguided masses of SL, patriotism, as preached by these yobs & their cronies, is considered to be intolerance of other religions & ethnic minorities, obstruction of progress through selfish trade union strikes & disruptions to the education of youth.

    I hope intellectuals, reformists & real patriots like Mr Senanayake will continue to pressure the Govt. & hold them accountable with consistent lobbying against the harm caused by stupidity, ignorance & sheer cussedness.

  • 1

    Thank you Ranil Senanayake.
    Thomas Jefferson quoted by Ranil “………..The earth belongs always to the living generation.”
    Maybe we must add “future generation”!
    This article must be made compulsory reading at schools. If we produce a hundred environment-conscious Lankans the destruction of our birth right can be avoided.

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