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Ways to curb soaring coconut prices

The price of a coconut which is now sold at a price of approximately Rs.55/- or above is perhaps the highest amount paid to purchase a coconut in the annals of our history. The coconut is an indispensable item in the preparation of our staple diet. This unusual price hike has contributed immensely to the cost of living of the low income earning population in particular. The price increase to such unprecedented heights has been owing to several acceptable reasons.
With the increase in population naturally demand for coconut also increases accordingly and hence in relation the coconut harvest too should increase in order to keep the price static. Although to achieve this instead of increasing the number of coconut trees, healthy trees in large numbers are destroyed with the construction of large factories, buildings with massive housing projects. Apart from these projects many individuals who build new dwelling houses have no other alternative but to chop down the productive coconut trees in the sites. A number of healthy coconut trees are felled when electric high tension power wires are drawn across coconut lands and along main roads. Although this is a dire need for development, the numbers destroyed during these activities need to be minimised.
The coconut smallholders confront drastic transport difficulties to reach the proper market. Instead, the wholesale merchants appoint their middlemen to visit the cultivators to purchase their crops at low prices and sell to the market keeping a large margin which, in turn, makes the price to increase as the demand exceeds the supply. The government authorities should intervene in this exercise.
It has been revealed by the Coconut Research Institute in Sri Lanka, that the coconut tree is perhaps the most valuable tree in the world. This gigantic tree grown in mostly tropical countries, which mainly produces coconuts, is used in the production of over 200 different useful consumer by-products as well. However, growing coconut trees as a mono crop is very uneconomical due to various reasons. The subsequent steps are needed to be followed,
• Irrigate the coconut trees when the ground water level drops below six feet from the surface. This applies to sandy soil otherwise it should be done at about five feet. The application of irrigation also depends on the height of the trees, as taller trees needs more energy to draw water up to the crown, and should be done before the water levels drop below six feet.
• Growing intercrops in between the coconut plantation.
• Utilising available land, for animal husbandry
To carry out the above operations, the cultivators must have human resources and infrastructure facilities like availability of sufficient water, electricity and a proper irrigation system, farm equipment and farm machinery. To increase the profitability, it is necessary to have electrically operated coconut husking machines and small scale coconut oil expeller machines. The government should encourage the academic staff with the assistance of university students to venture and undertake to develop such machinery. Electricity plays a pivotal role to enhance productivity.
Intercropping could increase the profitability of the land. In this regard human resources, farm machinery, water and electricity are the key factors. Except electricity, other three resources could be easily obtained by the cultivators. It is the governments’ bounded duty to supply electricity.
There are many coconut small holders in the North Western Province in particular and other provinces devoid of electricity to enhance productivity. The Norochchlai power plant could provide the required electricity for many coconut cultivators predominantly cultivating around the area. By giving power to these agricultural lands would, no doubt, enhance productivity which is a very valuable and would be a direct investment profitable to the country.
As the above facts are stubborn and very obvious, if the cultivators do not get the desired benefits, by the related authorities, all coconut smallholders would, in the future, firmly intend to cultivate cashew trees and other fruit bearing trees in the vacant spaces which will be created by the dead and the unproductive coconut trees in order to cover losses, instead of thinking of replanting. Hence, the present dire need is to appoint well versed government administrators to the coconut plantation industry to monitor and provide all required infrastructure facilities. For remedial measures, providing electricity is most vital to commence the use of submersible pumps for water, (to replace deep wells) electrically operated husking machines and small scale coconut expeller machines. If these are adhered to, there will be a drastic increase in coconut crops which, in turn, would reduce the price of coconuts as the supply will become very close to the colossal demand.

Sunil Thenabadu


Nostalgia for past cowboy films

We look back with fondness and nostalgia with lingering thoughts of the scenes of horse-riding cowboys with muskets, rifles and other arms in very colourful scenes of sun-setting in the cowboy films that we have seen at various theatre halls some decades back.
Some of the memorable films that I have seen are Three Musketeers, Man in the Iron Mask, Coscican Brothers, Beauogeater, King Solomon’s Mines, and The Magnificent Seven. Other interesting films that I can remember are James Bond films and Relic Hunter and not to mention the films like the Red Indian and the Whites Confrontations.
A few of the actors that I can remember at this distant time are Tyroll Power (Coscican Brothers) Gary Cooper (Beauogester), Chuck Norris, Burt Lancaster, Randoff Scott and Tia Career.
These films are well shot and are perfect at all levels as Hollywood is one of the pioneering film production locations. These films gave us septuagenarians, octogenarians, nonagenarians a thrilling time which still linger in our minds with pleasure.
I think the copies of these films could be obtained from the American Embassy and the British High Commission which should be available in their archives.
Mahinda Chinthana has done everything possible to lead us a happy and contended life in the evening of our lives. Hope the Rupavahini Corporation and other TV channels will do the needful to make us, the senior citizens, see these films once again.

V K B Ramanayake


Beware investors may get ‘Golden Keyed’!

At last Thursday’s evening presentation at the Centre for Banking Studies on “Taming the Beast in the Forest – Experiences from the Finance Companies” by Ms. Nelumani Daulagala, Director, Department of Supervision of Non-Bank Financial Institutions, the Central Bank of Sri Lanka, when I posed the question to the learned members of the “Discussion Panel” as to whether the companies inviting investments for tree plantation are registered and monitored by the CBSL, P Samarasiri (Assistant Governor – Central Bank of Sri Lanka) in his response said that these are not registered with the Central Bank and that these companies are only governed by the Companies Act.
I am of the opinion that either the public should be specifically informed that these companies are not registered with the CBSL and therefore, these are very high risk investments. The better option is to get these under purview of the CBSL so that public money is not swindled. I suggest that Nivard Cabraal, Governor of CBSL promulgates new legislation or amend existing finance/monetary regulations to be able to monitor these organisations before the investors get “Golden Keyed”! Over to the Governor to take suitable remedial action to safeguard the investment of the gullible public.
Mohamed Zahran


Collapsing bridge a danger

The concrete joint-bridge constructed a few years back over Dummalamodera rivulet near the cemetery of Bandariyawaththa in Payagala South is on the verge of collapse at any moment now.
This dilapidated narrow bridge is slanting to a side so that one has to be very cautious when crossing.
This precarious state of the bridge has been pointed out many times by the public to the relevant authorities but they say there is still no favourable response.
C M Kamburawala


Solving visa issue commended

Congratulations to the government on its decision finally to bring in the requirement of visas for all countries that demand visas from us Sri Lankans. This is a matter that has been receiving attention of almost every government but none had the guts to take a decision of reciprocity.
The Tourist Industry has been whining ever since the industry was set up in the 60s almost all the time expecting governments to support it. When they make enough money, they go quiet but when they get affected they seek ‘bail out’ packages. If it cannot sell the country, (like hundreds of other countries do) it doesn’t deserve to be in the industry at all.
Proper marketing can overcome many obstacles but our Tourist Industry has been lulled into a comfort zone by falling back on governments to assist it all the time, whereas in other countries, the private sector has to look after itself. If the Tourist Industry objects to visas being demanded of foreigners arriving here, it is only displaying the lack of respect that it has for our nation and for her people.
The late Foreign Minister Lakshman Kadirgamar was one of those who vehemently objected to the manner in which Sri Lankans were handled at Visa Offices of foreign embassies and was also in favour of imposing reciprocal systems.
Unfortunately, this same tourist industry sharks lobbied with the powers that be and stalked such moves.
I would like to extend my congratulations to the President and the authorities behind this move not only for the bold steps its taking but also for displaying some self-respect.
R de Silva



Bishop Lakshman Wickremesinghe

Tribute to ‘Bishop of the people’

On October 23 we will keep yet another annual remembrance of the passing away of Bishop Lakshman who died in 1983.
I had the privilege of knowing the Bishop for 25 years from the time I was a student in Kandy till he died as the Bishop in Kurunegala. It is perhaps the time that those of us, who knew him well, get together and write about him. What so far has been done is persons publishing his papers.

So in this tribute, it is the stories of the Bishop of the People that I shall share.
When I first met him as a student in Kandy, it was when he as the then Sri Lanka National Christian Council University Chaplain at Peradeniya was invited by our Chaplain at Trinity to do a Bible Study for the Trinity College Student Christian Movement. That night I in some ways discovered the then Fr. Lakshman. He wanted one of us to read that passage he was going to discuss with us. Since there were no volunteers, in his typical Lakshman Wickremesinghe style stated that since there were no volunteers to read the Secretary of our unit which happened to be myself should read the said passage, which I did. So, after the meeting he had a long conversation with me and from that night for 25 years he was my mentor.

At Peradeniya, the fire that was kindled that night at Trinity continued to burn. One morning after the regular Sunday Service he invited me to his study to tell me that I should think seriously about ordination. Thus began the struggle to make up my mind to be ordained.
Since he was against the concept of Christians entering into marriage with persons from other Faiths, no Faiths, and ideologies, he persuaded me not to accept the invitation to be the President of the Peradeniya University Student Christian Movement since at that time the person whom I married later was not a Christian. However, when he had to move from Peradeniya to Kurunegala as the Bishop of that Diocese, he asked me to look after the small group of persons whom he had invited for study and reflection.

It was when I listened to his sermon in Jaffna in 1963 at the Student Christian Movement Annual Conference that I decided to seek ordination in the Diocese of Kurunegala.
My decision to get ordained and to do that in Kurunegala did not make persons in my circle happy. However, looking back I am glad that from 1963 till I had to leave the Diocese in 1989 I was trained by Bishop Lakshman and even after his death spend a few years in that Diocese when I was compelled to leave Kurunegala for personal reasons.

The training that Bishop Lakshman gave me and what that Diocese offered me I would have never ever got from anybody else or any other place. For that I will be eternally grateful to Bishop Lakshman and that Diocese.
July 1983 was a turning point in Bishop Lakshman’s life. He was a very sick man and was in Birmingham on study leave from where he kept in touch with some of us.

In one of his many letters from Birmingham he wrote, “I will be eternally thankful to our God for I have lived long enough to see your friendship that began in Peradeniya become a successful marriage”.
Against Doctor’s orders Bishop Lakshman returned to Sri Lanka, visited every Tamil home in the Diocese of Kurunegala, went to Jaffna met with friends, went to Singapore for a conference and at the Council of that year in Kurunegala in September he delivered his last Charge, now known as the Lakshman Wickremesinghe Manifesto. In that Charge, he said amongst others that he was one of those who tried under God to solve our national problem and was unable to succeed.

In the backdrop of his death, one must not forget his courage to visit Jaffna when under political patronage the Jaffna Library was burnt. This happened against all advice of the government of the day.
Just before he died I was one of those invited to meet him in private at the Joseph Frazer Nursing Home where he died. What he shared with me that morning must await another time and another place.
Bishop Lakshman in his last visit to England speaking at his College Chapel in Oxford on All Saints’ Day stated that to his mind Guatama Buddha and Mahatma Gandhi must be remembered amongst the Saints.
While being on study leave in England on a short visit to the island he invited some of us to workout what he called the spirituality for our times. Those of us who want to remember Bishop Lakshman this year and always must continue to seek and search for a meaningful and relevant inner life and have the spirituality that will enable us to combat the evil of our time. We shall always remember Bishop Lakshman with love and gratitude.
May his soul rest in peace and rise in glory! Amen.

Sydney Knight


Yasasiri Weerawickrema Gunawardane

He was not tired of serving humanity

He was simply YW to us - who never inappropriately exhibited glory (Yasasa) or valour (Weerawickrema), but who was extraordinarily rich in principles and accomplished in qualities, and brave to fight for the right and truth.
Those who paid last respects to YW at his residence and Kanatte would have had many detailed memories of a Teacher, Assistant Government Agent, Government Agent, Additional Secretary to the President, a pious and religious individual, social worker and even an agriculturist; the latter known less. It is not surprising when reminiscing the cross-section - i.e. priests, public officers, academics, professionals, politicians, villagers, local level officers, retirees, relations, literary figures, friends, neighbours, etc - of those who participated to pay their last respects to YW.

We knew him first as an entrant to the University from Wanduramba Central College. As we got to know him more, above all, we found YW to be the principled gentleman he was; very sensitive and committed to whatever he did, for which he had no half way disposals. As a public servant he was bound by Administrative Regulations, Financial Regulations and circulars; but not when serving the society he chose to.

I remember YW serving in Galle, later reconstructing the cyclone-affected Ampara District as Government Agent, initiating development of Deeghavapi Sacred Area (Pooja Bhoomi) and later as Additional Secretary to President R Premadasa, and serving as President of Dharma Vijaya Foundation. His was a versatile career.
As Minister P. Dayaratne said at the funeral oration some activities he and YW initiated will suffer from the void created by YW’s absence, because only he knew how to handle some of the complex sensitive issues. I believe he was practising Buddhist values in his actions. He may have accrued such talent as a genuine public servant, religious influence he was exposed to, empathy that he cultivated and human relations he developed. His commitment to a cause prepared him to utilise all these to serve humanity to its best.

His latest commitment to assist undergraduates from Peradeniya Campus was a hallmark attempt when celebrating Pera-60, commemorating our university entry in 1960. He personally handled and took pains to select undergraduates who required financial assistance for their education, which involved a large searching exercise, analyzing, finalising, coordinating with university authorities, donors, undergraduates, etc. He tirelessly worked to find the best qualified without any narrow inhibitions, which earned kudos from his friends in Pera-60 and university authorities. He was meticulous to such an extent we are yet to hear any criticism of how he operated. The best reflection was that neither the recipients nor Pera–60 members knew his total contribution to this project. YW, the silent social worker was exemplary.

For Pera-60 he undertook collecting books from authors of 1960-Peradeniya batch and was keen in handing them over to the University Library the day after our celebrations, which could not be achieved due to logistical constraints. He was a bit frustrated but overcame this aberration soon with greater understanding.
As stated at the vote of thanks at the crematorium, there was the broad heart and iron will in seemingly a lean, unassuming YW and he could not be ruffled or muffled by such minor aberrations. In his thin, small frame was embedded the Hercules who could serve humanity with greater vigor.

He was an epitome and embodiment of a ‘public servant’ and was not a ‘government servant.’ His departure from public service was so sudden, his seniors like late R Abeyratne expected him to withdraw his “retirement” papers, which was originally made in a flurry as a “resignation”. His retirement was on an honest principle which we need not discuss here; but, the Hercules inside humble YW was unstoppable. Though I associated him for decades I cannot remember YW driving a car. When I mentioned this to his son Udara he said: “He had a licence. Thaatha liked to travel by bus and attend to his chores and he was happy about the outcomes of what he did and did not mind comfort.” Is not it a sinful tragedy that a modest person of such calibre had to depart due to an accident on a zebra crossing?

When MG Kularatna and I visited YW in the hospital we expected him, upon regaining health, to brighten us with his endearing smile and activity filled life. He would have served humanity for years to come as he was not tired of serving. But, unfortunately he is gone for ever. It is not he who lost his value; but, those who would have been served by him, had he lived.

Great poet Khalil Gibran in Prophet said of friendship “For that which you love most in him may be clearer in his absence, as the mountain to the climber is clearer from the plain.” The mountain that was YW’s illuminated spirit is ever so beautiful, clearer from this point of his death.
While conveying our sorrow to his wife, children and family, Pera-60 wishes him the eternal bliss of Nibbana.

Austin Fernando
Pera-60 Group


When was Robert Knox here?

Your correspondent to the ‘Eye’ Culture Page on April 10 has erred in placing old Robert Knox in the British period.
He was a prisoner of Rajasinha II when he ruled the Kandyan kingdom and the DUTCH ruled the maritime provinces. She should brush up her history!





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