The role astrology plays in our lives

It is during examinations that our astrologers come into their own. Magazines, newspapers, radio, and TV give them prominence and room for their predictions, with advice on how to entice fortune’s favour in their direction.
Students are asked to perform all sorts of rites and rituals to pass with ‘flying colours.’ Advice on how to retain what is learnt to come out bubbling in the examination hall is mostly ignored.
The emphasis is on dependence (this being Sri Lanka) on the Hindu gods, Ganesh and Parvati to make things right. These two divinities are drawn, willingly or unwillingly, under the benevolent shade of the Bodhi tree to stand in line of worship of the devotee, after recital of the Buddha’s superabundance qualities, for which the bodhi pooja was invented, with relevant meditation on him now hardly attempted.
Astrologers impose their Hindu influence on all, eagerly lapped up by our Buddhists, especially parliamentarians, who dare not open or close a door without the nod of their soothsayer. Every parliament opens to nekath time and recently one even closed abruptly to the same tune.
Coconuts are dashed defiantly in all kovils island-wide; worship and placating of gods of every faith happens around the clock in bizarre fashion, although prohibited by the Buddhist faith, which they profess to follow; not to mention the periodic dashes across the Palk Straits for lucky talismans and tips on more blind faith tactics.
This combination of Buddhism which is ‘to see things as they truly are’ and blind faith beliefs can turn deadly, as pointed out by psychiatrists, dealing with mental patients struggling to blend the two in their heads. Is it then fair to inflict this predicament on our growing children?
The moves to substitute a picture of Sariputta Thera, the Buddha’s chief disciple, on the students’ desks did not quite succeed, with their parents superimposing pictures of the favourite Hindu deities up front.
It is of his chief disciple that the Buddha once remarked, “Wise art thou, Sariputtta, comprehensive and manifold thy wisdom, sharp and fastidious, joyous and swift!” Coupled with his unique moral stature of Arahant, the final sanctity, could there be another, more worthy example for Buddhist children to follow, at examination or any other time?
Prema Ranawaka-Das


How do Sri Lankans consume the 160,000 metric tonnes of imported palm oil?

The Financial Review of The Island of May 26 carried an interesting boxed news item, ‘Last rites for palm oil imports. Ministry boosts coconut oil production.’
What struck me most was the information that the current coconut oil production in the country stands at around 10,000 metric tonnes and 160,000 metric tonnes of palm oil are imported!
What is happening to this vast quantity of palm oil? How do the Sri Lankans consume this? No ordinary grocery or village boutique sells any edible oil other than coconut oil – loose or in refined bottled form.
No supermarkets sell edible oils other than bottled olive oil, refined coconut oil or vegetable oils.
Just to make sure, I made enquiries from many sources. I have, however, failed to find out whether palm oil is sold, where it is sold and at what price. Most importantly, I have failed to ascertain for what purpose Sri Lankans use 160,000 metric tonnes of palm oil per year.
In the absence of this vital information it is reasonable to believe:
a) That what is sold as coconut oil is adulterated with palm oil
b) That palm oil is used in the manufacture of margarines and even the production of bottled ‘vegetable oils’
c) It is used for the production of soap and even cosmetic creams, or
d) It is used for the manufacture of lubricants for motor vehicles!
Apart from the coconut oil that Sri Lankans are familiar with, there are many organic oils produced and used widely in the world: olive oil, peanut oil, com oil, soya oil, sunflower oil, etc. At least the upper crust of Sri Lankan society has some knowledge of these oils. But how many know about palm oil?
Long before The Island came out with this report on imports of palm oil, there was a belief among the people that coconut oil sold in the loose form was mixed with palm oil. Indeed it is reasonable to believe that there is some truth in this.
I have still to hear of any state authority testing the coconut sold in the market for its actual contents.
Not long ago we had a lively debate on coconut oil to which I too made a minute contribution. It will certainly be interesting to see that experts particularly physicians and nutritionists have to say about palm oil and heart disease.
The Consumer Affairs Authority is duty bound to educate consumers on how palm oil is entering their diets.
Readers should be thankful to The Island and its correspondent for providing this vital information on the import of palm oil.
Edward Gunawardena


Are local inventors left to their own devices?

It goes without saying that the secret of nations that have reached great economic heights has been the prize inventions and discoveries made by some of their countrymen. In our country too, the local news media, time after time, has brought to light many achievements of such ingenuity by our citizens, especially the young.
Some of these reports have been the electronic wizardry of a student from Royal College, Polonnaruwa, a flexible artificial leg by A.S. Samarawickreme, and a portable windmill by Selvaraj.
Unfortunately, it seems, they are handicapped in developing their inventions into viable commercial products due to the lack of facilities for further research and development or capital for going ahead with production.
For instance, Selvaraj seeks a grant or subsidy to help start commercial production. With the present power crisis the country is facing, an alternative source such as the portable windmill referred to would be a great boon to the country’s economy.
It does no justice to these inventors if their inborn talents are not recognised and harnessed for the country’s benefit. Therefore, it is time that the government stepped in to help them by setting up a separate unit under the relevant authority, making facilities available for further research and development, granting financial assistance by way of loans, and coordinating with the private and corporate sectors to commence commercial production.
U.M.G. Goonetilleke


Of slippers, helmets and MIGs

Sandwiched as we are between various kinds of rhetoric and spin, ordinary folk, pushed aside to make way for supersonic VVIPs cavalcades in a hurry, hammered by unending security checks, one can only wonder how long more all this would have to be endured.
More than two decades have passed and over 70,000 have been killed and hundreds of thousands have been displaced; brave soldiers when fighting, now forgotten and left to tackle poverty when injured. Is there any solution in sight?
We are told to be patient; that in another two-and-a-half years the LTTE would be vanquished and the country would be a unitary state. All this is very familiar.
But what is not familiar is that no one has explained why an army, navy and an air force of 200,000, equipped with steel helmets, supersonic MIGS and Dvora craft, at a cost of billions of dollars cannot vanquish the bare-headed, sandal wearing girls and boys of the LTTE numbering some 20,000 (or is it 30,000 or 100,000?). After all, the LTTE is a baby brigade. If so, what is the problem?
Can the powers that be, who have promised us a ‘solution’ in two-and-a-half years please explain and lessen the agony of our wait?
Romulus Silva


Can a non-citizen of Sri Lanka hold ministerial office?

Britain being the last colonial rulers of Sri Lanka granted Sri Lanka independence in 1948, by an Act of Parliament passed in England. This was after 400 years of foreign domination. After independence, D. S. Senanayake was elected as the Prime Minister of Ceylon.
Prior to independence the Constitution of 1931 was known as the State Council where all communities, Tamil, Muslim, Burgher, Malay and Indian Congress Plantation Workers were represented. The then British interests present in Ceylon were represented by a board of ministers.
After independence in 1948 Prime Minister D. S. Senanayake passed a Bill in Parliament – The Indian and Pakistan Registration Act, where Indian plantation workers were disenfranchised which resulted in the loss of their citizenship.
The Indian workers, who kept afloat the economy of the country, and still do, had to leave the country under several pacts signed between the Sri Lankan and Indian Governments.
Since independence in 1948, Sri Lanka had two new Constitutions – in 1972 and 1978, including several amendments to the Constitution in between and thereafter.
To get to the point of the subject of my letter, I take India as an example. The Indian National Congress Party under the leadership of Sonia Gandhi won the last general election in India. After the election victory a big hue and cry ensued in India about the fact that Sonia Gandhi was of Italian origin.
Sonia Gandhi responded by honourably standing down from the position of Prime Minister, which she had rightly inherited by virtue of the election victory she achieved. Instead she offered the position of prime minister to Manmohan Singh, the current Prime Minister of India.
Now to the point, the brothers of Mahinda Rajapaksa, the President of Sri Lanka, together with Dulles Allahapperuma, are American citizens. However, surprisingly they are holding responsible positions within the Government of Sri Lanka, even at cabinet level.
In the event of a change of government in Sri Lanka, the aforementioned non-citizens will undoubtedly be the first to take flight out of the country – the reason being that they will be held responsible and answerable to the people of Sri Lanka for the anarchy, havoc and turmoil that has been taking place, is currently prevalent, and escalating to unimaginable magnitudes of the kind never seen before.
Will some knowledgeable Constitutional authority or expert kindly enlighten the people as to whether the action of the President in appointing non-citizens to senior government and cabinet positions, as I have highlighted above, is in accordance with the Constitution of Sri Lanka?
F. A. Rodrigo-Sathianathan Australia


Role of the opposition

In a parliamentary democracy, we find an established and approved opposition. The government and the opposition are the two wings of the same entity which gets its power from the people to take the country flying to Himalayan heights of achievement.
The opposition picks holes in the work of the government to emphasise its shortcoming and directs it on the correct path, in its forward journey, carrying the entire country forward to grandeur.
The opposition has to be a close friend, while advising the government. Publicity for the advisory role that the opposition offers will come through Parliament and the voting public that will decide whether the opposition is sincere. When elections come around, the voters will decide whether it will entrust the country to the erstwhile opposition.
The present Government is in power now only because former President Chandrika Kumaratunga thought that the UNP government that held sway from 2002 to 2004 was lackadaisical and corrupt. As a result she wound up the government and chose to hold elections.
The present opposition is kicking its heels impatiently, and resorting to various devices to bring down the government It is even plotting to buy over government parliamentarians using the services of an expatriate multi-millionaire.
The Opposition Leader, who is fortunately funded by the country, goes globe-trotting, ungratefully requesting the international loan providers to desist from financially helping the country’s economic advancement and plays the role of a traitorous quisling.
The opposition has dispatched an emissary to Japan to canvass the stoppage of financial help to the country as such monies may be used to buttress the war effort against the terrorists. It is not by subterfuge and delaying the economic advancement of the country that the opposition should seek to come to power, but rather by showing the people that it could do better by publicly advising the government on how to push ahead.
The Opposition should engage in contributing to the economic advancement of the country, and not its downfall for the selfish motive of grabbing power prematurely.
Clifford Ratnayake


Surrender your small change!

At present there are many coins in circulation ranging from 5 cents to Rs. 10. It could be noted that coins of value less than Rs. 1 are not of much use as the purchasing power is almost nil.
Further, when there is a balance of less than Rs. 1 due on a payment, even the buyer is not interested in collecting same. Keeping and accounting small coins is also troublesome and time consuming.
Therefore, I suggest the Central Bank makes a request to the public to surrender all coins in their custody which are less than Rs. 1 through banks, post offices, charity boxes, till boxes, etc., and reuse them to mint coins of higher denominations.
Even pricing structures could be rounded up to the nearest rupee without cents. This will save a lot of trouble and time to the public at large. I presume the relevant authorities will take necessary action accordingly.
S. R. Balachandran
Colombo 6











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