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Letters


Incentives for agriculture

Sri Lanka is an agriculture oriented country, and we have to provide adequate support, which will result in self sufficiency, employment etc. to our people.
I quote below three golden rules which need to be followed to stimulate agricultural production:

(1) Method
It is very important that agricultural societies, research institutions etc. educate the farmers with regard to:
a) Type of product suitable for the particular land and the season.
b) Utilisation of proper fertiliser (natural or artificial)
c) Modern methods of ploughing, sowing etc.
d) Easy methods of harvesting, transporting and proper storage.
It should be noted that scientific approach to Agricultural methods is very important to introduce new methods which are beneficial to farmers. We have to gather the information and transfer it to our people.
For eg:, In India, they have introduced an instrument to be used by fishermen (GPS System) which will warn them of stormy weather conditions well ahead. Further, this instrument will also help them to assess the quantity of fish available in a particular area of the sea.

(2) Loans
Loans should be made available at concessionary rates of interest, without much formalities.
Recently, I was pleased to hear from a leading Banker that farmers of a particular province always settle their loan installments on time. This is a culture developed through the cordial relationship maintained by the Bank with its customers. ie: Banks and other Financial Institutions could be considerate and relax their rules whenever the farmers fail to settle the installments due to poor harvest, bad weather conditions, reduced marketability of the produce etc.

(3) Marketing
It is very important that the products fetch a good price. We are all aware that when the production is high, the demand goes down and they farmers are compelled to sell below their cost. In India there have been instances where farmers have committed suicide when their products cannot fetch a reasonable price.
Therefore, it is the duty of the Government to provide adequate facilities to the farmers to maintain the market for their produce.

The following methods are suggested:
a) Provide proper and adequate storage facilities for the produce
b) Purchase the excess products and keep as a buffer stock to be used during shortage.
c) Arrange to export products that are in excess.
The above rules could be adopted not only for agriculture, but for the fishing and poultry industries as well.
I presume the relevant authorities will take necessary action in this regard.
S.R. Balachandran
Colombo 6.

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Open letter to the Minister of Environment

You have started well and seem inspired to give of your best.
Spurred on by appreciation, we bring to your urgent attention the Law Commission Report on Animal Welfare, formed after extensive consultation, which has been presented to the President. It was introduced a few months ago with a loud bang and – as so often happens here - not even a murmur about it is now heard. The meetings convened by many have all petered out, it seems. On enquiry, we are informed that it is being acted upon, but nobody has yet detected any tangible signs of activity.
If the report needs adjustment, there are plenty of animal lovers in the legal profession, who would gladly give their service to the pressing cause of those who cannot speak - of the unspeakable cruel abuses ‘heaped upon them, with increasing severity - in this “Buddhist” land!
We shall be grateful, if you will make sure that the Animal Welfare Bill is passed in Parliament - by whatever means - so that any offence against animals can be legally addressed. In other words, we are asking you to make an attempt - with all our backing -to realise officially, the lovely hope enshrined in the Buddha’s classic call, “May all living beings be happy”! - not just leaving it to the mellifluous strain of pirith aimed at us every dawn and sunset. Just imagine what a lot of “ping” or merit will start flowing your way - not to mention all those animal-loving votes!
Prema Ranawaka-Das
Moratuwa

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Four years of the most grievous suffering and no end in sight

‘The Americans are worse than the dictatorship. Every day is worse than the previous day. It was bound to get worse before it got better, ........’
What an unhappy anniversary. It is four years since the invasion of Iraq and the overthrow of the tyrant Saddam Hussein. And the more time passes, the more this military adventure looks a disaster for everyone concerned. Not least the people of Iraq. The large-scale opinion poll conducted there by the BBC and others may not have been as scientific as conditions of peace would permit but, its verdict is a damning one. Asked if life was good, two years ago 71% said “Yes”, but now that figure has almost halved. Fewer than one in 5 has confidence in the coalition forces, and 51% say that attacks on the occupying troops are justified.

Half of those who responded said that life is worse now than under Saddam. Even the Iraqi weightlifting champion who, four years ago, was famously filmed pounding a statue of Saddam with a sledgehammer, said: “The Americans are worse than the dictatorship. Every day is worse than the previous day.” It was bound to get worse before it got better, the remaining few apologists for war say. But how long must we persevere with this unchanged policy, before we admit that we are not going to turn any corner?

If the Iraqis are those who have suffered most grievously, they are not the only ones. The past four years have been bad for the British Army, whose troops have had to fight a war they know almost no one at home backs. Admiration for their courage and commitment cannot ennoble a cause which is not only futile but wrong. They have been bad years for the British political process, reducing public faith in our secret services and, most particularly, the political elite who, as Hans Blix put it recently, removed the question marks from intelligence on weapons of mass destruction and replaced them with exclamation marks. They have reduced credence in the impartiality of inquiries, with the highly politicised investigations of Lord Hutton and Lord Butler, and damaged the reputation of Attorney General, Lord Goldsmith, who first insisted that regime change was an insufficient legal basis for war and then mysteriously changed his mind.

They have been bad years for the relationship between Britain and the United States - maintaining which was, ironically, at the heart of the Blair strategy to fly at the wing of a bellicose president who, as one US academic put it, comes across as the quintessential ugly American: arrogant, uncouth, uncultured, ignorant, inconsiderate and aggressive. At his behest, Britain has been complicit in allowing intelligence and facts to be fixed around policy. We have managed to make a martyr out of the loathsome executed tyrant. And yet we have demonstrated no influence in pushing Washington to accept the recommendations of the Iraq Study Group, led by James Baker, who was secretary of state under George Bush’s father. Instead, the British and American leaders have flown on blithely, never having even the grace to admit, as did the two US pilots, who immediately exclaimed: “We’re in jail, dude”, after shooting at the British convoy in which Corporal Matty Hull died. Immune as both men are from the discipline imposed by the need to get re-elected, they blunder on, thinking only of the legacy of history. It will offer a harsh verdict. Iraq has made the United States look much weaker in the eyes of the world. The British have become almost as anti-American as the French have been historically; only one-third of Britons now regard Washington as a force for good. The support of the public in Iraq, as in Afghanistan, and, indeed, in the rest of the world, seems to diminish daily, rather than increase. Those who thought they had won the war are, with every day that passes, losing the peace.
Kamal Rajapakse

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Lalitha Werapitiya

On my visits to the hospital to see Lalitha, seated by her bedside, her right hand on mine, I chanted pirith, which she said was healing. She pleaded with me not to leave her, as she needed my strength to fight the cancer that had spread to every part of her anatomy, making a wreck of her mind and body. There was little I could do to mitigate her disquiet. To comfort her, I kept reminding her of our visits to India on Buddhist pilgrimage, her acts of charity and her services to relieve the pain and suffering of unfortunate human beings and animals. One such instance was the visit to the butcher at Madawala to rescue a herd of cattle from slaughter. Having been trained in dairy farming, she started crying when she realised the intense pain that the cow was in, due to her swollen udders. She massaged the cow’s udders with warm water. At her request, the animal was saved and given to a tanner for rearing.

Towards the end of her illness, a blood clot damaged her brain, paralysing her left side. She lost her power of speech, eyes closed and motionless, unresponsive to touch. It was merciful that she passed away in that helpless condition on February 15. According to her wishes, she was cremated the following day at Kanatte, Borella, in the presence of her family members.

Lalitha was born in Ratnapura and brought up in the walauwe of her grandfather D.H.W. Tennekoon, a wealthy land owner and a pioneer in the gem trade. Her early education was at Hillwood College, Kandy and later at Sacred Heart Convent, Ratnapura. Entering the Farm School, Kundasale, she distinguished herself winning the D.S. Senanayake Award and a scholarship to the UK, which she declined, as her parents would not let her go. Thus, her spirit was crushed, having to miss a golden opportunity to further her studies and experience the English way of life she loved so dearly.

She married Chitral Rodrigo and had nine children, which did not seem enough, for she gave a ‘home’ to a few boys and girls who excelled in their studies but with no financial support. After her husband died in 1981, I, a widower, married her in 1985. She was no stranger to me, as her elder sister was married to my elder brother.
With me, her love for travel was fulfilled. She visited Europe, on a conducted tour, UK, USA, where two of her sons are, Canada, where I have a daughter and son and India, seeing places of interest. The glamour and gaiety of Las Vegas enthralled her. Her love for India was the Taj Mahal, her dream edifice, at Agra. She read deeply of the Mogul rule in the history of India. On our visit to the Taj Mahal, I noticed to my amazement, the wondrous admiration she displayed with her palms coming together in reverential salutation. When I asked her what captured her imagination to such degree of sanctity; she said that while there, she felt the awareness of a multitude of builders and artisans at work.

Having made some study of parapsychology and the evidence from researches into rebirth, I have reason to believe that in a previous rebirth, Lalitha was Emperor Shah Jehan’s daughter. The account of the Indian philosopher, Osho, in his book ‘Creativity’ lends support to my belief.
There is also this strange coincidence - that three of Lalitha’s sons served as trusted stewards in the palace of the then Shah of Persia and his aunt. After the revolution which dethroned the monarch, the aunt shifted her abode to Bel Air in Los Angeles taking one of Lalitha’s sons with her. On our visit there, the aunt received and entertained Lalitha, as she would a near and dear relative.

Lalitha adored her friends, her books, her little garden of flowering plants and creepers, her music, both classical and light, her cookery, her scrap books, jokes, drama, the cinema and all things bright and beautiful.
Sorrowful indeed is her passing away. I have the Dhamma to console myself. The Buddha’s last words, after a ministry of 45-years were, “Decay is inherent in all component things. Work out your salvation with diligence.” Salvation is understanding the truth. Reality, what is. They are found neither in books nor word but within oneself, to be self-realised. When one’s mind is cleansed of the defilements or greed, hatred and ignorance, they stand out, majestic and clear.
Let us wish for Lalitha a trouble free journey through ‘sansara’ (the round of rebirths) and attain that perfect state of ‘nibbana’ which is sorrow free.
M.B. Werapitiya

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