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Bleak bare Island in the Sun

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Nature ravaged other parts of the world, sadly but inevitably, as nature had been ravaged for long by Man’s greed for money, luxury, development, expansion et al. And the disasters: whether wildfires, floods or earthquakes, were described as the worst in so many years or the very worst.

 This same Nature in her manifestation as weather, kindly passed by Sri Lanka, probably considering that this verdant dot in the Indian Ocean, a shed tear drop at the bottom of India, was beggar enough; was burdened beyond measure by troubles caused by its own people, again through greed, corruption and excessive political hot air. When the wiles continued, Nature thought it time to give the Island a blow. She stopped the advancing SW Monsoon winds and it is predicted, will curtail the receding monsoon too. Hence the projection that rains will come only in October with the onset of the NE Monsoon, a much weaker rain bringer. The earth of the island is fast drying, plants dying, marvellous wewas drastically reduced in their water content. An uninterrupted supply of electricity was considered more important than releasing water to growing paddy.

The blame for mismanagement cannot be laid on any one group or set of persons.  The farmers are said to have cultivated more land than advised; the Power Minister had his day; people in the irrigation, agriculture, hydro electricity generation departments did not cooperate and plan well ahead. But blame is most heavily laid on the Cabinet of Ministers which has to decide on all matters regarding the welfare of the people of the land. However, this seems to be at the bottom of considerations, the least and last considered matter – the wellbeing of the population of this island.

Votes

It looks to Cassandra as if the two most important, significant, demanding-of-people’s- time issues are elections and probable candidates for the presidency of the country. Of course, protests go on, mostly of farmers now, and telecast over news broadcasts. But covertly and overtly who will be nominated by parties to contest the presidential election, which is predicted to be the first election held in November next year, seems to be the preoccupation of political parties. One or two of them however are more preoccupied with causing eruption of disturbance, disorder and chaos. One or two SLPP over-jealous members proclaimed that Namal Rajapaksa is the Pohottu Party’s choice for president of the country. We know Ranil W is contesting.

This is happening more than a year ahead. Serious considerations of the here and now, needing every Sri Lankan adult’s attention, are present. Most are treated flippantly by the powers-that-be.

Water

The first is the water problem. It is feared that certain areas of the country will run short of drinking water. Isn’t that an issue to be attended to as highest priority? Everyone can help with this. I shudder when I see people in areas I walk around in – residential Colombo 3 – washing cars and watering not only their plants but roads too. Shouldn’t neighbours be vigilant and inform the police who will take action?  Even flushing toilets could be reduced since it’s such a volume of water that is released with pressing the button or lowering the lever. Cassandra saves in this, considering one passing of human water does not deserve a flush! Taps are kept open or even allowed to leak. And this wasted water is treated water that comes through the taps. A friend who lived in Hong Kong many decades ago, told Cassandra that untreated water was separately distributed to toilet flushes.

 Cass was delighted to notice that the Editor of The Island on Monday mentioned the need to set up desalination plants. Cassandra mentioned in a previous Cry how, many decades ago, she experienced the bounty of fresh, desalinated water in Kuwait, formerly a desert. Those mid-East countries are fast turning green while our green acres are going brown and bare. Malé lived on collected rain water until, say thirty years ago, a huge desalination plant was set up. Then it was treated with water everywhere; the first evil to be eliminated being dysentery.

 In my Cry urging the consideration of a desalination plant in Hambantota, I said it would have cost a fraction of what was spent on the harbour or airport. Maybe these are being made use of. Instead of setting up a cricket ground in water parched Suriyawewa, a desalination plant could have been constructed. No forward thinking, no real planners then; no going against the Boss’ desires, however extravagant or useless to the country and however expensive, needing loan taking.

When the Port City comes into occupation and use, water for it is sure to drain and strain the water supply to Colombo. Isn’t it time a desalination plant was constructed in the new city?

Money

On Wednesday August 23, The Island reports that the Minister of Justice, no less, has categorically stated that a vast amount of forex earned by local businessmen is stashed overseas. The amount has been named by the Minister and he has said this before. Any action taken to get the money back to the country where it belongs? We are sure the answer is no.  The businessmen involved used our labour, probably much local resources, to produce what they did. Thus

they owe the country the part of the profit specified as taxes. If this money is brought back to SL, and profits made on the sugar and garlic scams are recouped, we are certain Bangladesh, asking to repay debts she gave us, can be paid off. Sri Lanka is akin to the cornered kachcheri clerks of yesteryear who were hounded on pay day by Afghan money lenders who lived here.

Alarming!

A boxed item on page 1 in The Island of Tuesday August 22 sent warning signals, at least down Cassandra’s spine. The titles read: “Possibility of communal riots over temple; Orders go out not to ignore Indian intelligence warnings” as reported by Norman Palihawadane. It’s about the Kurundimale temple in Mullaitivu. Buddhist monks and devotees started arriving at the temple to conduct religious rituals. The worst was that the Pongal celebrations of the people in the vicinity were disturbed, it was reported.

We do not rule out the fact that the monks who gathered religious fanatics and trouble makers deliberately chose the time at this dicey venue.  It is a place sited on a volcano of racial tension. Here is another example of totally misguided Buddhist enthusiasm. Sacrilegiously using the name of the Buddha and his Dhamma, overzealous monks, knowing full well what horrendous calamities could result, go headlong into rousing religious tensions. Needless to say, such action should be stopped and such monks stymied. Governments shy away from intervening in religious conflict situations, mostly safeguarding their popularity or to collect clout with the majority Buddhist population. Time was when this sort of confrontation was encouraged by governments and top leaders. Moss of those leaders are deposed, but radical Buddhism lives on, fired by monks who are anything but Buddhist clergy.

Cassandra ceases her cry here. She is fatigued, sick of how things in this small country unfold when it could be a happy place with all working to get it back to its feet. She feels parched too, fearing droughts and lack of drinking water – never heard of in this lush country.

We need to remember what Rev Senior appealed for in his poem: The Call of Lanka

A voice on the verdant mountains,
A voice by the golden sea.
Rise, child of Lanka, and answer
Thy mother hath called to thee.

And that voice is every Sri Lankan’s conscience, love of mother country and spirit of loyalty

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