26 September, 2022


The Joys Of Country Living!

By Emil van der Poorten

Emil van der Poorten

Friends who are compelled to live in the urban centres of Sri Lanka often express their envy at what they see as our idyllic existence in “the boonies” of our land..

Let me take this opportunity of disabusing them of these false impressions, even though it might already be too late.

What follows is a very brief sampling of what now constitutes a rural Sri Lankan existence.

As pretty well all of our help, both domestic and field, hail from adjacent “colonies” – squatter settlements harking back to the time when that famous Sri

Lankan ‘land management system’ kicked in and resulted in a complete collapse of what was left after the post-Land Reform “management” of the State Plantations Corporation of hitherto productive agricultural land.

I have previously mentioned the fact that one of the largest cocoa (inter-planted with rubber) plantations in Sri Lanka in a region of the country deemed ideal for the Nectar of the Gods has been reduced to not so much as one cocoa bean being produced on approximately 1500 acres of land. The vegetation here has been totally denuded and anything that could be sold for any purpose whatsoever has been removed over the last thirty years.

Bad enough? Think of the fact that whatever vegetation survived the initial denudation was replaced by Guinea “A” grass. In dry weather, some firebug puts a match to the dry grass and the resultant smoke has a particularly negative effect on the wild bee populations of the area. Where one could, periodically capture a colony of honey bees and, with an adequate expenditure of time and effort, split this original hive into several new colonies, such a basic exercise is no longer possible. How do I know? Because we did exactly this in the time before the malicious machinations of Hector Kobbekaduwa and his Land “Reform” legislation. Now, there aren’t any wild colonies from which to draw and, perhaps even more significant, Apis dorsata, the giant honey bee (Sinhala – Bambara) colonies are beginning to disappear as well.

I distinctly recall counting, in the mid-fifties of the last century, more than half a hundred of these giant honey bee colonies festooning the undersides of the limbs of one particularly huge tree a short way up the road from the Galagedera Police Station on the highway connecting Kandy and Kurunegala. Now? Despite the tree retaining its identity as the “Bambara Gaha” (Bambara tree) there is not one hive on it. These very fierce bees, unlike their smaller cousins who nest in cavities in trees, small caves etc., follow their food supply. If they aren’t there any longer, the reason is simple: their food supply has disappeared.

When one thinks about the international battles waged against the likes of the Monsanto Corporation for their behaviour in the matter of decimating bee populations, we, in Sri Lanka better look at what we are doing to such economic resources, to the one creature without which our very existences could be at risk!

At a more immediate level, a road that provided access to automobile traffic has deteriorated (again) to the point that it is virtually impassable to cars, motorbikes three-wheelers etc. Over a period of almost 45 years, it has seen no maintenance of any description and the only way it has been kept open for emergency use is by the volunteer labour of those who need it to reach a hospital or similar emergency facility.

Immediately prior to the advent of the Good Governance (“Yahapalanaya”) government, we held a small gathering to drum up support from the man who proved to be an incoming Cabinet Minister. In fact, I made the mistake of heaping praise in the media on this individual who promised to rectify this terrible anomaly. As they used to say in the “good old days,” “alack and alas.” Nothing has come out of all that froth and bubble except a string of excuses that are, if nothing else, insulting to the intelligence of those at whom they are directed.

A threat to go public, inclusive of employing the electronic media in getting the word out has resulted in (yet another) promise of a visit and action. This is on the heels of the Chief Minion (CM) of the Minister making several lunch appointments with us that he’d cancel with about half an hour’s notice. Several registered letters to the Minister have not drawn so much as an acknowledgement. Most recently, I threatened publicity about this whole sorry mess in the local media and the internet. I then got a phone call from a minion of the CM saying they would be visiting us at 10:30 am on the 28th. They ultimately showed up about 4-5 hours late and it was obvious that the Minister’s CM was not there of his own volition but, probably, because of pressure from above! I reiterated what I had said with regard to the distinct possibility of the situation getting worse if the repairs to this road were not done immediately and appropriately. To the question directed at me as to what I expected in the circumstances, I said that I thought that those affected by what could be a very considerable expenditure of public funds should be provided with, at least, a framework plan. It was evident to me that no such plan/document existed. However, I was promised one. I also informed them that we, the residents of the area, had been compelled to husband whatever paltry resources we could to purchase, from a local quarry, rock chips which might make it possible to negotiate our only means of access in emergencies.

An idea of the state of his single access to services would be the fact that a journey that took about 5 minutes 45 years ago now takes half an hour.

Now to end on a lighter note, so necessary given the doom and gloom already referred to!

Recently, there has been concern about the meter readings on the basis of which local residents pay their electricity bills. The national media has reported that people had been overbilled by an under-staffed organization where even the existing cadre is incompetent. We attributed the in our meter reader showing up this month around the 20th to this state of affairs (as of the 5th of the next month of he still hasn’t shown up!) Seems our guess was simply wrong because our “usually reliable sources” report that during his meter readings in March this particular Central Electricity Board employee had removed all his nether garments when he was at the house of a young woman with three children and whose husband was away at the time! Never a dull moment and, when you think you’ve seen it all, (no pun intended) along comes an incident like this!

The consensus of opinion in these parts now appears to be that what is occurring in our daily lives is a further deterioration in what used to pass for law and order in the MR 1 (Mahinda Rajapaksa) days. One theory is that, if you belonged to the middle class during the reign of the previous lot you had a degree of protection because anyone intending to do you harm might have had second thoughts because you might in some way be related or connected to the White Van Disappearers!

I suppose I should “spin” the preceding anecdotal material into there being compensations for living “out in the sticks.” However, that would be patently dishonest given the fact that our Yahapalanaya (“Good governance”) is proving to be a sham, based on increasing corruption and incompetence.

One can but hope that, through some sort of miracle dictated by our lucky stars, things will turn around in the days to come and the very modest goals that most of us have in terms of simple honesty in governance are met.

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Latest comments

  • 2

    Even in the 1950s, we used to see people living in Open Land, near our Home in Rajagiriya, buying Readymade Meals; and Not even growing some Keera or a Banana or Papaw tree around their Houses!

  • 3

    The nation will be eternally grateful, and is in debt to our national hero Hector Kobbekaduwa (HB) who corrected the grave crime of land plunder in Sri Lanka by European Jewish vagabonds.

    they came, they vandalised our holy places, raped our women (and kept some as common wives, producing dozens of mulatto children) and robbed our land. These crimes had to be corrected.

    Boot lickers DS and Dudley Senanayake did not have the balls to take on these thieves. It was Mrs B who ordered HB to carry out this noble task of repossessing the stolen land.

    Those who sucked our blood will be blaming such patriotism, natural justice and protection of human rights while at the same time preaching from their high horses how to run our country.

    These buggers need to be hung by the unmentionables at Galagedara junction.

    • 3

      Whoa! You are frothing and foaming without doing your homework. Long before DS and Dudley, it was the walauwe nabobs who enabled our colonial masters to walk in and take charge. Solomon Banda not only became Maha Mudaliyar he was knighted too. Like the Obeysekera’s, Amerasekera’s, De Saram’s et al – handsome compensation for ensuring that we natives obediently bent over and kept quiet so the foreigners could take their pleasure. SWRD and Sirima were only playing to the gallery with the bullshit that they sprayed around. They (like you?) were one of many who saw our renaissance in division rather than uniting, and the ways things are going, it will take a long time to turn this old cart around.

      Careful with unmentionables now!

      • 0

        A lot of this is from comment in another thread.

        Take over by the English of “the commons”, i.e peasants land, forests is stealing. Buying stolen property or on false deeds does not give ownership.

        Take over by force/invasion is the norm in history. In recent history native lands of the Americas and Australia. Just becos it has become accepted, does not make it right. If it is right then, lands taken over by SL military in NE need not be returned to the original owners.

        Banda’s and others just sucked up. JRJ’s ancestor was a guide to the English, and helped capture the Kandyan Kingdom. A traitor of the first order.

        The Upper middle class English (not the rest of UK) have a history of taking over common peoples land. Its only urban land (5% of all land) that commoners have a stake.

        “Rural landowners receive a handout of roughly £83 per acre, while urban dwellers pay about £18,000 for each acre they hold, an average of £1,800 per dwelling, the average dwelling standing on one-tenth of an acre.”

        UK Landownership http://www.newstatesman.com/life-and-society/2011/03/million-acres-land-ownership http://www.thelandmagazine.org.uk/articles/short-history-enclosure-britain

        • 1

          That was an interesting analysis and (thank goodness!) devoid of the usual racist claptrap and abuse.
          One thing I’d like to see is a historical analysis, an honest one, of how the much-abused Waste Lands Ordinance was used as a means of taking over peasant land in the hill country. While there is no denying the fact that the invading forces of each country took over the lands of those they conquered, my impression of the appropriation of hill country land by the Brits is that it was HIGHLAND as opposed to low land (in the valleys). If, as has been consistently suggested, the hill country farmers grew paddy/rice, they would have done so in relatively low land which could be easily irrigated. Not having a tradition of dairying or the widespread use of draught cattle they would have left the hill slopes with their natural (jungle) vegetation. This appears to constitute, to a large extent, the land appropriated under the Waste Lands Ordinance by the Brits to grow tea. Their soil conservation efforts being conspicuous by their absence, I would suggest that the REAL damage they did was by destroying the fertility of the soil and, in fact, removing the topsoil entirely. The fall-out from that is what, I’d suggest, needs far closer examination inclusive of the necessity of using inorganic fertiliser to grow crops economically and, necessitating for economic reasons subsequently, the widespread use of chemicals for weed and insect pest control.
          Harping endlessly on “land appropriation” is an useless exercise, apart from the fact that hysterical half-truths do not serve the alleged victims one whit and only provide a platform for the politically ambitious and unethical.

    • 4


      More selective amnesia from a racist cesspit.

      Perhaps, you’d care to explain why Philip Gunawardene had to bring in the Paddy Lands Act to stop the ongoing exploitation of the Sinhala peasant by the Radalayas, such as Kobbekaduwa who parasitized these poor people, collecting half their harvest as andey after not putting a penny in cash or a drop of sweat into the production of it?

      Why don’t you drop by our neighbourhood sometime so that your candidacy for hanging by YOUR unmentionables might be assessed? Ah, but then you’d have to come out of hiding behind a pseudonym!

      • 1

        The English put in laws in Ceylon that exploited the peasants. Including the infamous Rajakariya to build the roads and railroads. The local hangers on the English jumped on the band wagon.

        Similarly the English annulled the property rights of married women. That too got corrected after independence.

        Skinner 1891 on Rajakariya

  • 2

    Emil van der Poorten:

    All those developed countries including your motherland Denmark had centruies old govts. So, they have not reached equilibrium stage, if that is the correct term to use, yet. On ther other this crappy republic, socialist, democratic systems are brand new for sri lanka. Under the king people lived in Harmony. they allowed Catholics, Tamils, msulims, Hambayas, MAlabaris and every one to come and settle. WE were laid back buddhists did not care about so much money or material success.

    Now, it is a different system once the british sudda left because there was nothing else to exploit here. On the other hand the nearest colony East-India became too much of a burden to the british who were going bankrupt. Because, they could not loot anymore from Asia.

    All those mudliers, radalayas are not genuine mahathmaya people they were just english educated translaters to the british and they whether, they knew it or not ran the country.

    So, UNP and SLFP, JVP are for they themselves, anyway better than anti-Sinhala buddhist LSSP.

    CT always add misleading titles to the content. Country living is something very beautiful. that is disappearing in Sinhale.

    • 1

      Don’t you ever tire of this mish-mash of goodness knows what which you seem to want us to believe is political comment?

      • 2

        Please don’t be too hard on our Jimmy, who is an old lady resident in an European mental asylum. She doesn’t get the hang of her I-pad
        keyboard and thinks spell-check is something to do with “hooniyang”

  • 1

    “Friends who are compelled to live in the urban centres of Sri Lanka often express their envy at what they see as our idyllic existence in “the boonies” of our land..”

    I’m in the same boat, however, unlike Emil, I love “country living”
    even though I have had to endure the inconveniences of bad roads, no power and had to forego a few other urban conveniences that have now been slowly improved/implemented over the years. In spite of all this I would never opt for living in a city with the crowds, traffic, pollution and other stressful conditions.

    Guinea Grass, ‘predators’ (both avian and mammalian) and other natural ‘inconveniences’ have been confronted and controlled without the use of traps and chemicals and although all battles haven’t been won, we manage to carry on. I have to confess I haven’t had the problems with the bureaucrats (as Emil has), but then that is not to say it may not occur in the future – hopefully never!

    Anyway, give me the ‘boonies’ over city-life any day!

    • 0

      I have no quibble with what you say until you get to,

      “Guinea Grass, ‘predators’ (both avian and mammalian) and other natural ‘inconveniences’ have been confronted and controlled without the use of traps and chemicals and although all battles haven’t been won, we manage to carry on. I have to confess I haven’t had the problems with the bureaucrats (as Emil has), but then that is not to say it may not occur in the future – hopefully never!”

      I would very much like to know how you’ve “dealt” with the “inconveniences” I have described. Simply put, you seem not to know what you are talking about in the matter of guinea grass and the avian and mammalian threats to our existence. Ask the (poor) residents of this area whether they can harvest a coconut from their trees, grow so much as a bunch of bananas or some manioc.

      None of us expect to be able to rid the area of these intruders. However, when they have had as significant an impact on our very existences, isn’t it time to drop the facade of a “religious” response to these pests.

      To reiterate: you have not dealt with the specifics of what I have had to say and simply mouthing platitudes just won’t cut it!

      • 1

        Internet search does provide some solutions.

        My experience:

        Guinea Grass: Cut with brush cutter before the seeds dry. Stops the spread. Under control, I do it all alone for 6 acres, without help.

        Monkeys: Used fish net around crops, plus dog/s to chase them.

        Wild Boar: Chicken Coop wire net around manioc and coconut seedlings.

        • 0

          You have been more successful than those around here who, incidentally, do not own brush-cutters and, even if they did, couldn’t use them on the extensive fields of Guinea Grass outside their own small plots.
          Monkeys? Ask those who’ve had their chickens killed and eaten by the simians and my dogs who’ve been ripped by them more than once why they have stopped trying to chase the macaques away (yes, that is not a missprint, the statement about the fact that macaques kill smaller animals and eat them)
          As for nets over fruit trees: you obviously don’t have in excess of 40 varieties on your land, many of them very old and large, to cover with netting. Even the small China guave tree by the house couldn’t be saved from the palm squirrels with a cover of net)
          As for chicken coop wire around coconut seedlings and manioc, your pigs (and porcupines) are probably “rural hicks” in comparison to ours whom nothing can stop from going for the “pala pee,” not even the spreading of human hair from the local barbershops!
          I suggest this discussion should return to a focus on subsistence farmers who have been compelled to take bus to work and have been reduced to buying their kos and polos from vendors, rather than pick them from the tree in their yard,and leave gentlemen farmers to their own devices.

        • 0

          Fish Netting around the perimeter. Around each tree is too expensive. High enough that the monkeys have to climb over it. Monkeys can climb, but in a hurry they get entangled.

          A few rockets (fireworks) will singe them. Pellet guns get embedded and cause gangrene (bad). If the monkeys try to go underneath at ground level the dogs attack.

          The combination of rockets dogs will scare of a troop for weeks. No permanent solution, other than Hitlers method.

          My dogs were picked up as pups from the village street. Excellent hunters, thought to be one of the oldest in the world and the progenitor of the Australian dingo

          I live in a former border village that had no economy during the war. Those who had the money had fled the area and plantations abandoned. Now there are many who have brush cutters and shared/hired among each other. Its cheaper and faster than using a mammoty to clear weed and brush.

          Finally, I am not a gentleman farmer/squire type. I do almost all the work myself. Health reasons and hired help never does it quite right. Maybe under supervision, which negates the purpose of freeing me up to do other stuff.

      • 1

        Emil – Thanks to sbarrkum I don’t need to spell out how some of the “inconveniences” were, and could be, dealt with.

        “Simply put” as you put it, you should spend some time (as sbarrkum and some of us have) checking out solutions instead of consistently whinging about the sorry state of affairs that you feel fate has dealt you. You sound like a broken record, as every so often we are served your list of moans about the fauna and politicians that give you a hard time. Give us a frigging break!

        And “isn’t it time” you stop being rude and dismissive of those who don’t always agree with your views. Also if you thought that assumptions like “drop the facade of a “religious” response” are going to be offensive, think again, as puerile crap like that only displays your insecurities and are wasted on those who can see through YOUR “facade”.

        “To reiterate”, dealing with your “specifics” will be like pouring water on that proverbial duck, but now that you have some, stop whining and get to work – and then maybe (just maybe!) you will learn to love country living and learn to deal with what you have and appreciate the positives.

        • 0

          We have not only “checked out” the rubbish you spout, we have tried out and continue to seek solutions to our problems that go beyond putting net covers over mango and other trees, some about a hundred years old! When you have lived three generations and more on the same land, trying to make a living out of doing so, we do have a PRACTICAL knowledge of what all of it means. I will also make no apology for treating the upper-middle class, “country living as a lifestyle” nonsense with the contempt it deserves, particularly since it continues to publicize its ignorance of the real rural world.

          • 1

            Emil, when will you stop making assumptions about those you respond to? Actually, this is a ploy of those whose arguments are brittle and who are cursed with a knee-jerk gene and have to trash around flailing for all they are worth for want of something of value to respond with.

            Your ‘excuse’ for being rude and dismissive of those you ASSUME are “..the upper-middle class, “country living as a lifestyle nonsense ..” falls flat, as it doesn’t apply in this case. And that wasn’t “contempt”, it was bullshit!

            • 0

              Back to basics: DEAL WITH THE ISSUES RAISED IN A REALISTIC MANNER INSTEAD OF SPOUTING UNREALISTIC RUBBISH ABOUT NETS ON FRUIT TREES which does nothing but suggest those with a (middle-class)predilection for “country living” rather than the necessity of doing so.

              Most would define “bs” as unrealistic rubbish emanating from little but a fertile imagination.

  • 0

    Mr Pootin,

    Sorry to hear that you are getting shafted by your own UNP Politikkas who parade as Yahapalana dispensers.

    I didn’t see much activity even around Wilpattu, when I did the road trip from Madhu to Mannar and all the way to Mullative via Jaffna.

    Beautiful road network except the rutty bit before coming to Pudithukuruppu.,,Not sure who to thank.

    It was just to get a feel of how life would have been for Batalanda’s buddy Velupulle Pirahaparan.

    Wonder where Bathtah has settled his cousins in our virgin national park.

    I took a trip to Digana as well , Beautiful country but hard to live unless I buy a 4WD.

    I like the hill tops surrounding the Victoria dam for a little Shack.

    And play Golf alongside Suddas.

    Just imagine doing that when your ancestors were ruling the roost with the Mudliyars who one commentator has been kind enough to mention.

    Now that you are getting a bit old to fight those Scumbag politikkas and help the Dalits, you should seriously think of buying a pad in Wellala gardens .

    Dehiwala is a bit cheaper because it hasn’t got a cool postcode.

    But that will change soon, if your mates Dr Ranil, Dr Rajitha nad Whiskey Madam con our inhabitants to give Diaspora the Federal Eelaam.

    • 2

      KASmaalam K A Sumanasekera

      “I like the hill tops surrounding the Victoria dam for a little Shack.”

      Are you planning more illegal land grab? Who is your new partner in crime?

      “And play Golf alongside Suddas.”

      Do you want to illegally grab land from local dalit and convert it into Golf course for Dalit Suddas?

      Did you realise you are still a Post Colonial Lackey?

      • 0

        Dear Native,

        Don’t you play Golf….

        Wonder whether your mate Sampathar ban us from China Bay…

        Batalanda Constitution will give Vellalas total control of Public Land in the North and the East.

        And guess what, Kotte Dudes will have to have two third to overrule their TNA mates.

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