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Foreign Affairs

A Rejoinder To Hoole: Tamil Hinduism And Arumuka Navalar

I respond to the three opinion pieces of Samuel Ratnajeevan Herbert Hoole namely (i) “Arumuka Navalar: Fake Images and Histories” published in the Colombo Telegraph on March 30, 2013; (ii) “The Jaffna Version of the Tamil Bible: By Peter Percival or Arumuka Navalar” published in the Colombo Telegraph on April 5, 2013; and (iii) “Heritage Histories: What They Are and How They Operate Through Jaffna” published in the Colombo Telegraph on April 6, 2013.

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Mr. Hoole asserts that Arumuka Navalar was built up by “ill-educated” “Tamil Saivite extremists” and that everything about Navalar was “fake” be it “his portrait, caste and name, and perhaps religion..”. He alleges that Navalar, a “high school dropout”, had ‘tiny ears and a big forehead on a huge head, thin hands and legs, strong facial hair, and huge body without any strength”. Hoole explains that Navalar was unable ‘to complete high school after 6 years in Tamil school and 13 years under Percival”. He adds that Navalar had a multitude of names each spelt differently and that he was but an “unpaid” “menial assistant” to the missionary Percival!

Hoole similarly claims that the Tamils “were Buddhist and Jain before Saivism took root after the seventh century AD”. He adds that 8,000 Jains who refused to convert to Saivite Hinduism were impaled in the 7th century. He asserts “that many Hindu temples today were once Buddhist and Jain”, agreeing with a Sinhala Buddhist nationalism that is eager to plant Buddha statues in places of old Hindu worship in Sri Lanka. He ends by asserting that “Christians live in fear – living oppressed and as the the oppressed’.

I will be brief as I respond. In the interests of brevity, I will focus on just two subjects i.e. (i) the roots of Tamil Hindu tradition prior to the period of Jain and Buddhist literary influence; and (ii) Arumuka Navalar. Hoole needs to verify his information. His is a highly selective and wishful narrative with numerous errors. Little of what Hoole says is credible. Its time to set the record straight in the interests of a more nuanced interpretation.

Hinduism, Jainism and Buddhism in early Tamil history

If one were to appraise the religious character of early Tamil society, one will need to refer to the earliest specimens of Tamil literature that exist today i.e. the Sangam-era work. The Sangam works consist of two literary compendia namely the Ettutogai or Eight Anthologies and the Pattu Paatu or 10 songs. Both are dated to between the 1st and 3rd centuries of the Common Era (CE). It is also important to cite the earliest Tamil grammar in existence today i.e the Tol-kaapiyam. The latter text is usually dated to the early centuries CE. There is an academic debate on the internal consistency and date of the Tol-kaapiyam.

The Sangam compendia I refer to excludes the 18 later works or the Pathinen-keezh-kannaku nool which subsumes the Silapadikaram, the Manimekalai, the Tirukural and other later texts. Those are post-Sangam works.

If one were to explore the Sangam-era, one finds a bardic tradition interspersed with references to the veneration of the Hindu gods Seyon or Murukan, Maayon or Vishnu, Venthan or Indra, Korravai or Durga and Varuna. These were the patron deities of the Tamil land. Seyon or Murukan was the benefactor of the hill tribes while Venthan or Indra was the God of Rain and the protector of the fertile agricultural tracts. Varuna, the God of the Sea, was the guardian of the maritime tracts and all those whose livelihood depended on the sea. Korravai or Durga was the patron of the fierce tribes of the arid tracts. Maayon or Vishnu, also known as the lotus-eyed or Taamarai Kannanaar, protected the herdsmen. The Sangam literature refers to the mighty womb of Korravai that gave birth to Seyyon. There are allusions to the three-eyed God, Siva.

There are references to the Brahmins who tended the sacred fire and studied the four Vedas or Naan Marai. Several Brahmins contributed to the corpus of early Sangam literature. This included Kapilar, Uruttira-kannanaar, Nakeerar, Paalai Kauthamanaar and Perum Kausikanaar to mention just a few. There were several others. Several of the Chera, Chola and Pandya monarchs performed the Vedic sacrifice as documented in the Sangam corpus. The practice of suttee existed. This inheritance is what we today call Tamil Hinduism. The literary allusions to the Jains and Buddhists were far fewer in the Sangam-era.

The pottery and stone inscriptions in Tamil Brahmi dated to the decades before the dawn of the common era offer insights as well. The potsherd inscriptions linked to a megalithic culture contain references to Murukan while the few early rock inscriptions document individual donations to itinerant Jain monks.

The more copious literary record that has survived to date reflects a Hindu folk idiom linked to the rural populace, chieftains and the priesthood while the rock inscriptions suggest individual traders sponsoring Jainism. Buddhism in that early era was numerically less significant. Hoole’s point that Hinduism influenced the Tamil land only in the 7th century is therefore false.

Buddhism emerged in a significant manner in the Tamil land with the later Kalabhras. The Kalabhra dynasty had invaded and ruled Tamil Nadu between the 4th and the 6th centuries CE. Inscriptional and literary evidence indicates that the Chola, Chera and Pandya kings were ruthlessly suppressed. The Kalabhras patronized Buddhism and used Prakrit. Buddhism remained an urban phenomenon. Most Tamil Buddhist monks of this period chose to write in Pali, not Tamil. This included Buddhadatta Thera from Uragapura (Uraiyur) and Dhammapala Thera from Tambarattha (Tirunelveli) who traveled to Sri Lanka to translate the proto-Sinhalese language commentaries into Pali. The celebrated Buddhist commentator Buddhaghosha lived for a while in Madhura-sutta-pattana (Madurai) en route to Sri Lanka to study the proto-Sinhalese texts. Hoole’s contention that Sinhalese literature is a 9th century phenomenon linked to the suppression of Buddhism in the Tamil land is therefore flawed!

The Buddhist zeal of the Kalabhras triggered a home-grown Saivite and Vaishnava revival in the 6th century. This in turn saw the eclipse of Pali scholarship in the Tamil land and a renewed pride in the Tamil language.

Buddhism however continued in urban Tamil Nadu until the 14th century. The Culavamsa describes Sinhalese kings inviting Tamil monks from South India to visit Sri Lanka between the 12th and 14th centuries CE. The Tamil grammar, the Vira-choliyam, was authored by a Buddhist in the heyday of Chola rule in the 10th century CE. The Saivite Hindu Cholas sponsored this Buddhist author. Meanwhile, the Jain center of Sittanavaasal continued to flourish between the 7th and 9th centuries. Saivite Hinduism did not annihilate Buddhism or of Jainism in 7th century Tamil Nadu as Hoole writes. The Buddhist presence in Tamil Nadu ended with the establishment of the Madurai Sultanate in the early 14th century. Tamil Jainism continues to exist to this day.

Hoole highlights the alleged impalement of 8,000 Jains in 7th century Tamil Nadu and cites Nambi Aandaar Nambi, an early medieval Saivite scholar, in support of his claim. This was a literary allusion with no independent evidence. The Chalukyas and Rashtrakutas ruled in neighboring Karnataka. Several of the near contemporary Chalukya and Rashtrakuta monarchs, not to mention the Pallava kings in Tamil Nadu were Jain. There is no corroborating Jain literary or inscriptional evidence of any such impalement. The inquisition was a Christian instrument of persecution, not Hindu.

Hoole is likewise dishonest in selectively quoting Nilakanta Sasti’s History of South India to extrapolate that Buddhist and Jain temples were converted into Hindu places of worship ignoring the extensive evidence provided by Professor Sastri on the Brahmanic and Vaishnava presence in the earliest period of Tamil history.

In conclusion, what we now designate as Hinduism was pre-eminent in the earliest years of recorded Tamil history. The Jains did extensively contribute to Tamil literature at a subsequent date. To argue that we were Jains and Buddhists before we became Hindu is simply incorrect.

Arumuka Navalar

Let me now turn to the subject of Arumuka Navalar. Whether Navalar had any input in the translation of the Bible into Tamil, how he looked, how he spelt his Tamil name in English in a era where such spelling had not been standardized and where births and marriages were unregistered, what caste he belonged to and whether his father was baptized is irrelevant to his legacy as a pioneer who recognized the importance of the media, print technology and western education to the dissemination of Tamil Hindu learning.

Mr. Hoole has had a 15 to 20 year track record of attacking Hinduism and individuals linked to the Hindu revival in Sri Lanka. I had rebutted an earlier article of his dated May 14, 2010 where he had attacked Arumuka Navalar and Sir Ponnambalam Ramanathan. “In Defense of the Sri Lankan Hindu of Yesteryear: Arumuka Navalar and Sir Ponnambalam Ramanathan” was published in the Sri Lanka Guardian on May 20, 2010 and in the HaindavaKeralam and LankaWeb. What I stated there still holds. Let me repeat what I said there rather than reinvent the wheel.

One needs to revert to primary sources if one is to accurately describe Arumuka Navalar. Navalar lived between 1822 and 1877 CE. His works include the ‘Prabandha Thirattu’, ‘Saiva Thooshana Parihaaram’, ‘the Prohibition of Killing’, and his classic deconstruction of the Bible. These texts help one to understand him better.

One discovers herein an astonishing man who grasped the imperative to establish Hindu primary and secondary schools in the 19th century, modernize and broadbase Hindu education, use simple Tamil prose to disseminate Saivite Hindu doctrine and leverage the printing press to republish the Tamil classics and Saivite Hindu scripture. Navalar made it a point to study Christianity to more effectively combat the white missionary enterprise. Navalar worked in Jaffna and Tamil Nadu. He established schools in Jaffna and in South India of which the Saiva Prakasa Vidyalayam was the first. Arumuka Navalar’s emphasis on a modern Hindu education in Sri Lanka was the prelude to the later Hindu Board of Education in Sri Lanka.

He was the first person to avail of the modern printing press to publish rare Tamil classics in the mid-1800s anticipating the subsequent seminal work of U.V. Swaminatha Iyer and the other Sri Lankan Tamil Hindu stalwart C.W. Thamotherampillai.Navalar established a printing press in Sri Lanka and in Tamil Nadu. The one in Jaffna was called the Vidyanubalana Yantra Sala. Professor Dennis Hudson of the State University of New York has chronicled Navalar’s use of the printing press on both sides of the Palk Straits in the 19th century. Navalar published 97 Tamil language documents. He published rare works of Tamil grammar, literature, liturgy and religion that were previously unavailable in print. For instance, the first ever Sangam text that saw the light of print was the Tiru-murukaatru-padai of the Pattu Paatu. Navalar brought this out in 1851.

Noted Czech scholar of Tamil, Kamil Zvelebil, demonstrated that Navalar was the first author to use modern Tamil prose in a manner understandable to the layperson. Professor Meenakshisundaram echoed this view when he reiterated that Navalar was the first to use simplified and unadorned lay Tamil. He had adopted a highly effective and unadorned preaching style borrowed from the missionaries that consisted of five steps to quote Hoole i.e. (i) preface; (ii) exposition; (iii) doctrinal analysis; (iv) applying the interpretation; and (v) conclusion. So yes, Navalar made stellar contributions to Hinduism, the Tamil language, Tamil prose and Sri Lankan Tamil identity.

The Hindu revival preceded the Buddhist revival in Sri Lanka by a full generation. As Bishop Kulendran of the Church of South India in Jaffna conceded, it was Navalar’s Saivite Hindu revival that stemmed the conversions to Christianity in northern Sri Lanka in the 19th century. It was Navalar likewise who first articulated in modern times that the Sri Lankan Tamil identity was parallel to and not the same as the South Indian Tamil identity.

Navalar, like almost all in the mid-1800s, suffered from caste prejudice. The 1800s was an unenlightened age where the Christian missionaries in India and Ceylon exemplified a deep religious bigotry, the Sri Lankan Tamils exemplified a hateful caste prejudice while the Europeans were busy enslaving or exterminating the Black population in America, Australia and South Africa often in the name of Christianity. Navalar can not be absolved on the issue of caste. This said, a critical interpretation of history forces one to acknowledge his other accomplishments.

Bibliography

(i) K.A. Nilakanta Sastri, A History of South India: From Prehistoric Times to the Fall of Vijayanagar, Oxford University Press, 1955;
(ii) V.R. Ramachandra Dikshitar, Studies in Tamil Language and History, University of Madras, 1936;
(iii) Vaiyapuri Pillai, History of Tamil Language and Literature, Chennai, 1956;
(iv) George Hart, The poems of ancient Tamil, their milieu and their Sanskrit counterparts, 1975 (University of California, Berkeley);
(v) Takanobu Takahashi, Tamil love poetry and poetics, 1995;
(vi) Kamil Zvelebil, The Smile of Murukan on Tamil literature of South India, 1973; and
(vi) V.S. Rajam, A comparative study of two ancient Indian grammatical traditions: The Tolkapiyam compared with Sanskrit Rk-pratisakhya, Taittriya-pratisakhya, Apisal siksa, and the Astadhyayi, University of Pennsylvania, 1981.

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Onion Pickle

By Jayantha Kovilagodage
Sri Lanka onion prices to rise after Indian export ban
Dec 21, 2010 (LBO) – Prices of onions and leeks in Sri Lanka could rise after India’s decision to suspend exports of onions, a trade official said.

Pettah Wholesale Traders’ Association vice chairman Nihal Seneviratne said 90 percent of Sri Lanka’s onion requirement is imported from India and imports from other origins would be more costly.
India on Monday suspended exports of onions, a key food staple, after prices of the vegetable soared, adding to the government’s inflation woes.

Sri Lanka might be forced to import from sources like Pakistan, China, Egypt and the Netherlands, Seneviratne told Vimasuma.com, our sister news website. “Pakistani onions are not as good as Indian onions and they spoil quickly,” he said.

“To ship onions from China takes about a month and requires use of a refrigerated container. Therefore, onion imports from these countries will invariably be more expensive than from India.”

Even if the government reduces a 10-rupee a kilo import tax on onions retail prices cannot be reduced under present conditions, Seneviratne said.

Stocks of onions in the Pettah wholesale market were running low and Indian exporters had even taken back cargoes of onion already loaded on ships, he said.

Prices of onions grown in Sri Lanka’s northern Jaffna peninsula as well as leeks are likely to rise.

Sri Lanka imports 4,000-5,000 tonnes of onions a week from India which supplies about 60 percent of the world requirements of onions.>> Full Story

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Foreign Affairs

‘Marshall Plan’ And Sri Lanka

S.Sivathasan

S.Sivathasan

What a war devastated nation needs most is resource for rebuilding. What Sri Lanka lacked most was the requisite capital. When local resources cannot be fully mobilized recourse is necessary for infusion from abroad. Both strategies have been employed by the present regime. No doubt adding to debt, but permitting of first world expenditure  in a third world economy. Public debt of Rs. 2.222 trillion in 2005 has risen to Rs.6.000 trillion in 2012. Year on year increase alone was Rs. 867 billion in 2012. The GDP which grew by Rs. 1.038 trillion in the same year, has the resilience to accommodate this debt.

What the people are peeved about is the uneven spread smacking even of profligacy. What the Tamils cry for is equity in distribution to make amends for past misfortunes. In desperation, they direct their sights to foreign countries and institutions for their initiative and assistance. What they can look forward to from the government is proactive response. Their   experience of the Tokyo Pledge of 2003 for Sri Lanka and of Marshall Plan of 1947 for Europe is particularly comforting.

Marshall Plan

What is most striking about the Marshall Plan (MP) is the speed with which initiatives were taken for the economic  reconstruction  of Europe after the War.  It was considered a prelude to political stability. Both placed together were seen to ensure the health of Europe and as importantly, the economic  well-being and growth of the United States. The pace is a contrast to the failure of the Sri Lankan Government even four years after the end of the war. There is not even a thought of it. Launching  of  a redevelopment programme to get over war devastation was perhaps wished for. As culpable in this lapse are Tamils, failing to press forth the concept of a ‘Marshall Plan’ as an effort at redemption.  The idea of political solution now with reconstruction to follow will be realized in the Greek kalens.

The MP was enormous in scope and vast in geographical spread. The amount US spent in three years 1948 to 1951 was$ 12.7 billion. To get the perspective clear, it may be observed that the GDP of US in 1948 was $ 258 billion. In comparison the GDP of 2012 was $ 15.65 trillion. The beneficiaries of MP in Europe were 16 states of which, UK, France, W.Germany, Italy and Netherlands received nearly three-fourths. All five are among the top in the world in state GDP as well as per capita. Timely aid was as important as the volume disbursed. Grants to all 16 countries composed 90% and the balance was loans.

Benefits of the MP did not come easily to the recipient countries. The plan may be said to have originated with Marshall’s speech at Harvard in June 1947. The US was to assist in normalizing economic health in the world. No political stability or peace was assured otherwise. This was the germ of his thinking which was elaborated on. There were however reservations, criticism and even opposition.   From conception to delivery to the affected, the path was tortuous. Some had illusions of relegating Germany to a ‘pastoral state’. Statesmanship overwhelmed such ideas. Realization eventually prevailed that when Germany’s industrial capacity remained idle, Europe’s economic recovery can only get delayed. Germany’s economic recovery was deemed central to Europe’s progress. Pragmatism was more compelling than antagonism.

Other Aid

In passing, reference must be made to US grants and loans in Europe amounting to $ 14 billion outside MP. This was between 1945-1947. Britain alone received $ 3.75 billion. Post war Asia too received sizeable aid. Japan, Taiwan, South Korea and Phillipines were principal beneficiaries. In the period 1945 to 1953, grants and loans given by America to the world totaled $ 44.3 billion. This was a huge amount and it had a tremendous impact  on the recovery of Europe not to mention the countries of Asia.

Inner Vitality

There is something very significant to be observed however.  Six major powers fully involved in the war, both allied and axis, are now among the topmost economic power houses. Five of them barring US – Germany, Italy, Japan, UK and France – had experienced severe destruction. With a little moistening the seeds have sprouted. There was hardly a spell when they remained dormant. Their inner vitality and entrepreneurial spirit explain. Perhaps their elan vital pushed them to the top even before the war. What is noteworthy is that physical destruction did not cause despondency, but infused a new vigour. Even before the MP went into implementation, they had launched their recovery programmes with their own resources.  This is not to discount the very important part that MP played in providing the initial spurt and then maintaining the momentum. Timeliness was of the essence.

Sri Lanka

Lending a helping hand to lift a prostrate people is all what the concept of ‘Marshall Plan’ is invoked here for. The parallel ceases thereafter. The five nations were able to do so since the nation building process was completed decades earlier. They moved ahead single mindedly as a single polity. The situation in Sri Lanka is distinctly different. The Tamils fought and lost. What they lost in war they cannot gain in peace. If what they want is equality, it is only inequality that we will give. This is the official attitude of the government. Reducing the North East to a ‘pastoral state’ will take the country nowhere.

“Come and see” is the oft thrown challenge. Having seen two there is no appetite for more. The no. of industries in the country is 4,816 in 2012. In the Northern Province-NP- it is 11. The no. grew by 470 in the last 4 years island wide. In the NP it grew by 6. The GDP of the Province is 3.68% of the nation’s. What is seen is enough.

The initiative of the donor community is necessary for a wholesome change. A country cannot prosper when a segment is impoverished. Russia spurned US aid and mulcted East Germany almost to the tune of MP aid. Unified Germany’s mission was to bring East and West to a level of parity. Same ethnicity one would say. If for the benefit of reconciliation and unity ethnicity blindness is called for, embracing it may be compulsive to all.

Tokyo Pledge

The Tokyo Pledge of 2003 drawn up with a magnitude of $ 4.5 billion is a little bit of a Marshall Plan. With a tenth implemented and nine-tenth remaining, it is a viable entry point to resume the redevelopment programme.  The Needs Assessment Report of 3,400 pages encompassing the North East and the adjoining Provinces is appropriate for an immediate beginning. The Report has identified projects. As funding becomes available, they are picked up, detailed estimates are worked out and projects are implemented. Even as this segment gets under implementation, a Needs Assessment survey can be carried out for the subsequent period up to 2009. Mid – course revisions are practicable.

Future

A future of promise should firstly enable those in governance to see the sentiments of all citizens in objective light. Those thrown aside have to be facilitated to come back to mainstream economic life. Local and foreign resources have to be mobilized and utilized for this purpose.

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Cargo Trends

Sri Lanka port handles record four million containers
Dec 21, 2010 (LBO) – Colombo port volumes hit a new record of 4 million containers Tuesday supported by powerful development in both transshipment and import-export cargo, the Sri Lanka Ports Authority (SLPA) stated in a statement.

The quantity of twenty-foot equivalent units (TEUs) of containers handled by the port is up 20 % so far this year from a year ago.
It is also up 11 percent compared with the total of 3.68 million TEUs accomplished in 2008, the highest-ever functionality by the port ahead of recession hit worldwide trade.

SLPA managing director Nihal Keppetipola mentioned efficiency improvements and removal of safety restrictions with the end of a war had helped boost cargo volumes and reinforce Colombo’s status as south Asia’s hub port.

The number of import-export containers handed by Colombo is up 25 percent this year compared with final year even though transshipment cargo has improved by 18 percent, the SLPA said.

The state-run Jaya Container Terminal (JCT) handling its highest-ever monthly volume of 201,217 TEUs in August this year.

Keppetipola said a new computerised terminal operating program at the JCT costing 800 million rupees helped integrate all terminal operation and strategy and optimize speedy movement of containers amongst the gate and the quay.

This decreased dwell instances for containers and turnaround occasions for vessels, Keppetipola said.

A satellite-based communication system was also added to monitor container stacking

&#8220Last year we reopened the northern entrance, which had been closed for ten years due to safety motives, to facilitate smoother maritime transportation and to enhance productivity in the port,: he stated.

“This move put an finish to the navigation restrictions that have brought on congestion at the port causing delays in cargo handling and turn-about instances of vessels.”

Sri Lanka’s 30-year ethnic war ended in May possibly 2009, resulting in the withdrawal of war danger insurance surcharges and accelerating financial development.
The JCT has handled 2.1 million TEUs this year with the remaining 1.9 million TEUs handled by the privately-owned South Asia Gateway Terminals in which Sri Lankan conglomerate John Keells Holdings has a 42 % stake.

Keppetipola said the combined work of the state-run and privately-owned terminals was essential to Sri Lanka’s drive to turn out to be a major centre of shipping, trade and logistics in the region.

He said it was “an excellent test case of public-private partnership arrangements in the port management region.”
&gt&gt Complete Story

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UN SG Panel – LLRC will adhere to Warrant

In the event of the government facilitating UN Secretary General’s Panel to visit Sri Lanka, the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC) will hear such representations on the basis of its Warrant and the usual procedures followed for such hearings, the LLRC said in a statement.

Following is the statement:

UN SG’s Panel

There have been some inquiries from the national media regarding a visit to Sri Lanka by the UN Secretary General’s Panel. Any decision to facilitate the UN SG’s Panel to visit Sri Lanka lies entirely with the Government of Sri Lanka. If a decision is made to permit such a visit the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC) will hear such representations on the basis of its Warrant and the usual procedures followed for such hearings
>> Full Story

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Foreign Affairs

The Electricity Tariffs, Populism And Smarter Consumption: Some Reflections

pradeep Jeganatan Colombo Telegraph

Dr. Pradeep Jeganathan

In midst of the noise of populist political posturing on the electricity tariff increase, there has also been, as always, a considerable amount substantial discussion on the issue. While a number of OpEds have been edifying, and of our legislators, Harsha de Silva‘s lone, yet richly informed analytical voice has been most stimulating, I do feel there is an aspect of the matter that has still not drawn attention. In the paragraphs below, I will attempt to delineate this.

I will not go over all the numbers here, yet suffice to say that simply throwing out percentages of the increase does not paint a worthwhile picture. For example telling us that a 30 unit consumer’s bill will rise, 52% is a great, factually correct but misleading headline – that may allow the reader to miss, the fact that for nearly half the electrified households in Sri Lanka (0-30), this increase will amount to Rs. 75/=. Consider at this point that a loaf of bread is 60/=, a packet of milk powder 400/=, and the cost of mobile telecommunication perhaps 400/=, to say nothing of other utilities. Tub thumping about a 75/= increase of one utility is neither here nor there. On the other hand, electricity subsidies, unlike many others are beautiful and elegant since they are not easily transferable to an affluent consumer. Comparing this to the old style ration books, which were, and the new style car permits that are, would clinch the case. In any event this small increase comes in at some thing like Rs. 575 million, which again given the CEB short fall of nearly 60 Billion, is neither here nor there.

The brunt of the increase in rupee terms is borne by the lower-middle band 90-180 consumers. A 150 unit household will see its bill rise, from 2850/= to 4515/=. That’s not just 58%, its also Rs. 1,670/= or so. A 180 unit household will see its bill go up to 5130/= an increase of only 33% and rupee addition of 1275/= ( Yes, the rate of increase decreases with consumption. All figures have been rounded off, and are rough).

That’s a lot.  For a family of four, in the urban service sector, living on some thing like 40,000/= a month, spending some thing like 12% of its income on one utility is a heavy burden, given others like cooking gas, water and telecommunications. Transportation while not a household utility is another thicken slice of the families budget.

So what should be done? Indeed one can agitate for a reduction; but unless this cost is recovered, those very households will see price inflation in other segments of their monthly basket of goods.

Promoting energy efficiency is the other way to go. Indeed if we are to accept and live with the form capitalism we have, it seems rather contrary to suggest as some do that the answer is to discourage consumption. That may be one model of using resources, but its silly to impose it in electricity consumption and promote it in other areas.

For example are we to have a sliding scale of pricing for personal miles flown each year? In this model, if you’ve flown 10,000 miles this year your next ticket would be twice the price of your old one. On the contrary, airlines encourage frequent fliers, by giving them perks. At the bottom of this system of capitalism – which is flawed but still viable – is the idea that flying becomes more energy efficient each year. So its not that you fly less. You fly more, at lower energy cost.

Returning to the lower-middle band of 90-180 customers of the CEB, we can make the same kind of argument, which a false, child like populism is masking. What does that mean? Well, we only speak of light blubs when we speak of energy efficiency. Since lighting is so basic, it seems safely populist to speak of moving from incandescent lighting to CFL or LED lighting. Yet is it unclear, if these well known new technologies are supported by duty waivers.

But once we leave lighting behind we will find that a household in the 90-120 band has both a refrigerator and a television. 40% of Sri Lankan households have a fridge, 80% a TV. But in the lower-middle band I speak of ownership of these appliances has to be pretty universal. It stands to reason; or else where would the units go? What is the average energy efficiency of these appliances as used in the lower middle band? I am not sure any one knows – but we can guess estimate that the turnover cycle among this consumer is long – unlike with the affluent who may turn over their appliances every 3-5 years. Older appliances are far more inefficient than new ones.

Let us look at some numbers. Switching from a 17” CRT TV to a 15” LCD TV (which has the equivalent viewing area), will save 13+ units a month, if daily viewing is set at an avarage 8 hours a day. With a refrigerator, switching from a 8 CF model that’s 20-10 years old to a fresh model, will save more than 50 units a month.

Lets say a savings of 59 units a month. Our 150 unit household is down to 91, and their bill is back down to, 2,225/= or from 4,500/=. A reduction of huge proportions. Our 180 unit household is down to 121 in this simple calculation (the reductions could be higher if the TV and/or fridge was bigger); and their bill is now 3,500 down from 5130. (If 60 units were used as the savings, the drop would even larger, but perhaps misleading, because of the quantum jump at the pricing bands).

No doubt its not that simple; new appliances do have a considerable capital cost. Yet, there is little doubt that home appliance chains sell new low end TVs and fridges by the truck load; the question is how does a consumer learn about her choices?

Shouldn’t we be rating household appliances on an efficiency scale? Shouldn’t such rating be regulated, just as the ingredient listing on a can of fish or packet of sausages is regulated? Shouldn’t there be huge duty concessions for the highest energy band? Shouldn’t consumers be told at the point of purchase, this model will cost you so much a month to run, the other one more?

We don’t seem to doing any of this. At the very top end of things, several retailers advertize energy efficient air conditions. But even they do not actually tell us what the power consumption of the model is. If you walk into one of the large home appliances chains in Sri Lanka  – there are three big ones – and ask casually or other wise (I’ve tried both) – what the power consumption of the reverent appliance is, you will find that the sales staff are clueless. In fact, when recently at the service center to pick up an appliance, I asked the technician in front of me, at the testing table, what was the power consumption of a LCD TV he was testing. He looked blank. I rephrased the question a number of ways; he looked about the back of the TV and said, ’220.’ Yes he did. He was pointing to a white sticker that said, the appliance was rated for 220-240 A/C. For the uninitiated, the rated voltage of an appliance has nothing to do with its power consumption; if a trained repairmen is as clueless as a sales person on these matters, I am very much afraid the consumer may be quite lost. We really need to do better.

My numbers are rough, and I am skeptical, to say the least, about the great project of consumer capitalism. But that’s where we are. Populist protests mask this because consumer capitalism seems dirty, and unworthy of street protests. I think we need to grow up, and for the time being at least, simply consume  smarter.

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A Steep Upsurge in Enterprise for Commercial Banks

Commercial Banks in Sri Lanka have registered an upsurge in business in the recent months. In the month of October alone these banks have provided new loans amounting to Rs. 50 Billion, which registers a 20% increase over the same period last year.
Loans from foreign exchange banking units have increased by Rs. 5.2 billion to Rs. 156.3 billion.

However, loans to the government from the banking system, including the central bank, have fallen steeply by Rs. 36.6 billion to Rs. 565.5 billion as the government repaid credit following a billion dollar sovereign debt sale.

Credit from the Central Bank to government has also fallen by Rs. 15 billion to Rs. 85 billion.

Last year, loans to private business contracted as the government ran a deficit of around 10% of gross domestic product and banks bought risk free Treasury bills instead of lending to risky private business. Financial sources said that following a balance of payments crisis in 2008 and 2009, banks curtailed credit and were facing rising bad loans. Central bank data indicates that bad loans were now falling appreciably.

With many incentives and concessions given to the private sector in the new budget potential for banks to increase businesses, especially their lending portfolios have increased and business analysts comment that banks have every possibility of getting further strengthened in the future months.(niz).

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Why Commonwealth SG Sharma Need to Show Leadership On Sri Lanka

Callum Macrae

Callum Macrae

This is a crucial moment in the ongoing campaign for truth and justice in Sri Lanka.

Tomorrow, Friday 26th April, the Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group will collect in London.  There they will go over developing calls for the next meeting of the Commonwealth Heads of Government (CHOGM) to be taken away from Sri Lanka.  CHOGM is scheduled to be held in Colombo in November this year.

The concept that CHOGM should be hosted by a regime accused of such serious war crimes is abhorrent to most people who believe and hope the Commonwealth ought to be a force for great – a neighborhood of nations functioning towards human rights and justice.

That the Sri Lankan government would then become the chair of the Commonwealth for the subsequent two years is even a lot more disturbing.  A regime embroiled in an increasingly desperate and dishonest campaign to delay and deny the serious evidence of war crimes &#8211 and the growing international determination to call them to account – is in no position to defend the core values of the Commonwealth.

At this critical time for the Commonwealth attention will focus increasingly on the function of the Commonwealth Secretary Basic, Kamalesh Sharma.

Several will be looking to him to give the type of leadership which can strengthen the Commonwealth’s part in encouraging human rights, justice and an end to impunity.

He can make certain that this issue is confronted. Indeed many would argue he has a clear duty to do that.  If the Commonwealth drifts blindly into enabling itself to be headed by a regime accused of such appalling war crimes and crimes against humanity it would be catastrophic.  But I see no signs so far that Mr Sharma has any intention whatsoever of acting to prevent that taking place.  I hope I am wrong.

There is a curious Commonwealth process which offers for the Secretary Basic to exercising his “good offices” to resolve this sort of scenario ahead of severe action is taken.  It is suggested that a two month period be permitted for that.  Mr Sharma has been formally working out his “good offices” for significantly far more than two months now.  And in that time items in Sri Lanka have got worse, not far better.  Repression of Tamils in the north has enhanced.  Tamil newspapers have been violently attacked.  A journalist from the Sunday Leader – whose founding editor was assassinated four years ago – has also been shot.

Now violently ultra-nationalist groups led by intense Buddhist monks  &#8211 tacitly endorsed by the President’s brother, the Defence Secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa &#8211 have launched attacks on minority Muslims.  The country’s judiciary is in crisis following the politically motivated impeachment of the country’s Chief Justice.

Sri Lanka is quickly sinking into a despotic morass – it is increasingly seen as a pariah state.

On Friday Secretary-Common Kamalesh Sharma will report on the question of Sri Lanka’s hosting of CHOGM to the members of the Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group (CMAG) committee.

He owes it not just to the future of the Commonwealth, but also to its values of truth and justice – to ensure that CMAG discusses taking CHOGM away from Sri Lanka.

On the webpage of the commonwealth…

http://www.thecommonwealth.org/subnewsarchive/191183/231999/ask_sharma/

&#8230we – the citizens of the commonwealth – are invited to place a comment or a query to Mr Sharma, by sending a message, with ‘Ask Sharma’ in the subject line, to this address:

[email protected] 

I recommend that as a lot of of us as achievable do that over the next 24 hours. Let’s make certain that today we ask him – politely and respectfully – what he intends to do about Sri Lanka and CHOGM.   And if he believes that a regime accused of such terrible war crimes – and probably to be embroiled ever far more seriously in such allegations more than the next two years – is truly match to lead the Commonwealth.

The calls from around the world are growing.  Final week 900 Commonwealth lawyers meeting in South Africa named for Sri Lanka to be suspended from the Councils of the Commonwealth due to its breaches of the rule of law and of the independence of the judiciary, as well as the gross harassment of members of the legal profession.

That contact has now been endorsed by the Law Society of South Africa and echoed by the International Bar Association.

The tide is turning – the calls for justice increasing.  The Commonwealth need to not be left behind.

*Callum Macrae &#8211  director, “No Fire Zone: The Killing Fields of Sri Lanka.”

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‘Long War, Cold Peace’ – The Unfinished Story Of An Unfinished Conflict

Lasanda Kurukulasuriya

Lasanda Kurukulasuriya

Dayan Jayatilleka’s Long War, Cold Peace – Conflict and Crisis in Sri Lanka’ appears at a moment in history when Sri Lanka stands at a crossroads.The war is over but there is yet a crisis of reconciliation and a crisis of state to be resolved, and so a stable peace still eludes us. These are the issues that Jayatilleka primarily worries about in his new book. It runs into several sections and sub sections on the historical record of how we came to be where we are.

The first aspect of the crisis of reconciliation is located, as it has been by many others, in the need to forge an overarching national identity that includes all communities. A less obvious aspect of the crisis that the author identifies is what he calls “the crisis of post war consciousness and discourse.”

“Those who call for a just peace refuse to admit that it was a just war and therefore face a crisis of domestic legitimacy. Those who maintain that it was a just war fail to call for a just peace, a peace with justice for the Tamil community.

Long-War-Cold-Peace

The Tamils for their part have failed to make a clean break from their recent past of support or sympathy for secessionism and terrorism.There is no post war discourse which combines a strong position in defence of the war with a strong drive for a sustainable peace on a new basis of a fairly redrawn ethnic compact. This is the crisis of post war consciousness and discourse.”

It is in this important area that the book makes its main contribution — one of its objectives, by the author’s own admission in the preface, being to provoke the debate and discussion that is needed. ‘Long war, cold peace’goes headlong into the narrative without detaining the reader with the niceties of a foreword or intro written by some other scholar etc. If the book comes across as having been produced in a hurry, it is because it was.

The author and publisher (Vijitha Yapa) were keen to “send the manuscript to the press in time for the March 2013 session of the UN Human Rights Council and the discussion on the event.”

The book combines documentary, analysis and opinion (at times all rolled into one) drawing on the author’s multifaceted experience as a political scientist, academic and diplomat. He was also briefly a minister of the ill-fated North East Provincial Council (NEPC) formed in 1988 under EPRLF’s Varadharajah Perumal. Chapter three(‘Conflict and Negotiations’) that deals with the formation of the NEPC and the reasons for its failure is one of the book’s most detailed and nuanced sections. This is no doubt owing to the author’s degree of proximity to and involvement in the events chronicled.

Starting from the genesis of Tamil separatist violence this section traces the trajectory of the Eelam Left, the shifting balance of power between its constituents, the LTTE’s rise to pre eminence,the bloody serial massacres tha teliminated its rivals, the Indo Lanka Peace Accord of July 1987, the developments leading up to the outbreak of war between the Indian Peace Keeping Force (IPKF) and the LTTE in Oct 1987, the formation of the NEPC and the factors leading to its eventual collapse.

The seemingly intractable interplay of forces at different levels – inter-state as well as intra-state, is made comprehensible,aided by reference to the “unchronicled and undocumented processes that were going on at that time.”

‘Long war, cold peace’ does not pretend to be a complete historical account of the war, and its narrative does not proceed in a straight line. While it deals withthe important landmark events and issues(the Eelam wars, July 1983, the Indo Lanka Accord, the Ceasefire Agreement, the P-TOMs, the military victory over the Tigers, post war politics, the international dimension) the book’s interest lies more in the author’s analytical approach and ability to place things in perspective.

There is an ethical dimension to the discussion that runs through it like a sub text, and this is where the book’s appeal would lie for those with a philosophical turn of mind. The author’s encyclopedic familiarity with political theory,conflict situations and armed struggles elsewhere in the world allows him to make comparisons at every point (Columbia’s FARC, Central America’s FMLN and URNG, the MNLF in the Philippines, SPLA in Southern Sudan, the PLO and the IRA).This constant cross-referencing helps the reader to understand the particularities of Sri Lanka’s crisis and its manifestations. It also helps to separate criticisms that are valid from those that are not.

In the latter part of the book that deals with the international dimension, Jayatilleka refers to the ongoing discourse on war crimes and says “the assertion that the endgame that actually took place needs to be investigated as a war crime” is baseless.The reasons he gives, briefly are, firstly, the Tigers were a fascist force that had to be decimated. Secondly the Sri Lankan forces had to operate according to a tightening timetable not of their own choosing. Thirdly at no time were civilians wittingly targeted as a matter of policy, nor were they boxed in and deprived of an exit by the state.
In no way does this argument amount to a dismissal of human rights as “a Western invention or booby trap.” Though there are constant attempts to use human rights to undermine national sovereignty, Jayatilleka pleads that the answer is not to shun human rights but to protect them ourselves.

It is imperative to realise that the international pressures “are a symptom and byproduct of something that has gone wrong in our external relations and our ability to communicate with the world.” The only real antidote against these pressures he argues is to have “strong, credible, NATIONAL institutions and mechanisms.”The author offers pointers as to how, in his opinion, the crisis of reconciliation can be resolved. Central to that project is his belief in the 13th Amendment and the urgent need for devolution of power.

If this book has an ‘unfinished’ feel to it, this is probably not unrelated to the fact that the conflict itself remains ‘unfinished’. Having been rushed to press, the manuscript’s main weakness is an element of repetition, duly apologised for in a note by the author. Some sections have been drawn from his previous publications. This creates a certain unevenness in the text, as the reader has to constantly shift gear so to speak, adjusting to varying levels of intensity of analysis and slightly different stylistic approaches adopted in different sections.

However, consistency of philosophical approach is maintained throughout and this gives the work a binding coherence.’Long war, cold peace’ may be a bumpy ride, but worth it for the reader who, at the end of the journey,will arrive at a better understanding of the most urgent issues of our time.

*This article is first appeared in Sunday Times Sri Lanka

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Let’s Not Do This: A Wee Note To Dr Jayatileka And Mr Seneviratne

An excellent piece in the New York Times today talks about ‘Monks Gone Bad’, describing a corrupt and violent Sangha that uses hate speech and abuse against minorities and is helmed by leaders who resemble fatuous politicians and not the ‘birds of the wing’ that the Buddha wanted his mendicant followers to be. I am not here to point out the contradictions between Buddhism as taught and Buddhism as practiced, the ingloriousness of Buddhist praxis nowadays is evident for all to see. I just wanted to point out that at every instance in that article where I saw Myanmar, I could have easily inserted Sri Lanka. For every instance where I read about 969 in the news, I can insert ‘Bodu Bala Sena’. About the only words that do not require replacing are ‘anti-Muslim’, ‘minority’ and ‘hate’.

IMG_8368.CR2

As we all know, the police, together with the Bodu Bala Sena soon disbursed the vigil, arresting some, manhandling others, and collecting the names and pictures of most of the attendees.

The Bodu Bala Sena and its kindred run amok in Sri Lanka, like bullies in a school playground, and with not much more in the way of finesse. They hurl offensive invective towards religious minorities, and their words have resulted in quite a few violent incidents against Muslims ,and at least one against Christians, re-opening wounds in the country that are still struggling to heal after the 30 year war. They seem to operate in a space where Sri Lanka has not just lost so many lives, its economic development, and so much of its natural beauty to a long, long war. In order, perhaps, to call their attention to this, a peaceful vigil was held outside the headquarters of the Bodu Bala Sena. As we all know, the police, together with the Bodu Bala Sena soon disbursed the vigil, arresting some, manhandling others, and collecting the names and pictures of most of the attendees. Not only this, the Facebook page of the Bodu Bala Sena decided to ‘name and shame’ these attendees, causing their supporters to enact the most disgraceful bout of name-calling, verbal harassment and racist trolling that I have ever seen on social media.

One of the ‘points of order’ from the Bodu Bala Sena, its supporters and some of the media who covered the incident, was that the legitimacy of the vigil was in question because the attendees did not represent the Buddhist population, that many Muslims, Christians and Hindus were present. On Facebook, attendees are called out as ‘demalek’ ‘muslimayek’ ‘jathiyak nathe’. Indeed, an attendee tweeted that he overheard someone saying that the vigil was convened due to a ‘conspiracy of Muslims and Catholics’. So much for a critical understanding of religious history- perhaps the speaker would be better served from devoting his time to education rather than racist troublemaking! To each his own, however.
It is altogether more worrying thing that this misrepresentation of the attendees was not only picked up by the media, but that it was also the feature of an article by Malinda Seneviratne, writing in the Colombo Telegraph. The good gentleman, from his considerable experience, no doubt, is able to discern a Buddhist from a non-Buddhist, and therefore writes an entirely unnecessary article that serves only to distance himself from standing with those who attended the vigil. In response, Dr Dayan Jayatileka – who is experiencing some changes to his tune- quite rightly pointed out the flaws in Mr Seneviratne’s argument, but did it in a manner that entirely calls attention to his own accomplishments and ‘stake’ in the manner. The riposte from Mr Seneviratne was then, to accuse the good Doctor of ‘throwing his CV’ at him. I ask you, gentlemen, is this really the response to what is happening in Sri Lanka? The actions of the Bodu Bala Sena, and the complicity of the government in them are grotesque enough without the debate being reduced to puerile attacks on each other’s logic.

If you have a voice that can be heard and that has gravitas, and you both have the great privilege of this, why not turn it more fully toward more constructive dialogue? Why not ask that the rights of those who attended the vigil be defended? Countless women- because the body of the woman is so carelessly mangled in these cases- are facing vile, misogynistic abuse via Facebook from the supporters of the Bodu Bala Sena. These men direct all their perverted, violent fantasies at these girls who really do not have much in the way of legal succour. After all, the AG has instructed victims of social media attack to file complaints with the police. Yes, the very same police who put the kybosh in the vigil. Why not direct more energy into rousing the non-English speaking Buddhists to speak out against the Bodu Bala Sena with less articles in places like the Telegraph which are read by the diaspora and the English speakers? Yes, the handicap at the vigil was that there were many who attended who were ‘English speaking’- but that does not make them any less Sri Lankan, any less Buddhist, any less angry, or any less valid in their protesting attacks on minorities. Give out your voice in solidarity with each other, with those who will question the validity of the Bodu Bala Sena, and in solidarity with what must be a better tomorrow.

*Anupama Ranawana is a wishful academic and a practicing activist. She can be reached for comment via Twitter @MsAMR25

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