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Saturday, 17 September 2011

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A memorable hour for the state

Considering that the state is usually the recipient of brickbats rather than bouquets, Environment Minister Anura Priyadarshana Yapa's decision to put a halt to a controversial road construction project which was to be implemented in the Sinharaja forest reserve area, in view of its possible environmental consequences, should not be allowed to pass without comment. It is not sufficiently realized that the state strives to act in accordance with the public interest and very often succeeds. The Environment Minister's decision is one such case where the public interest has been borne in mind by the state and its functionaries.

This act by the minister needs to be highlighted as a shining hour for the state because state agencies come in for a tremendous amount of flak over a number of issues, including those relating to the environment. For instance, environmental destruction is carried on apace, it is alleged, with the connivance of local level petty politicians and some agencies of the state, such as even law enforcers. Illicit sand mining and timber-felling are just two illegal operations that are thus widely commented on and in relation to which destructive criticism is unleashed on the state and its agencies. It is of interest, that in many of these campaigns against the state, non-governmental organizations figure very prominently.

However, the good that is achieved by the state is rarely highlighted in relevant sections of our polity and we believe it our duty to now and then point out that the very many good things in life which are enjoyed by the public and even the NGO sector, would not be possible if the state failed continuously in its duty by the citizenry. The state is pervasively present but is engaged in what could be referred to as a silent service. It is perhaps on account of this 'silence' that the state is taken for granted and very often mercilessly excoriated by its destructive critics, who usually have an abiding vested interest in doing so.

A most glaring 'silent' state service was there to be seen in the closing stages of the humanitarian operation. Currently, sections of the international community are falling over each other to put Sri Lanka in the dock in the 'councils of the world', over nebulous allegations, but it is perhaps purposely glossed over that the state was present in a big but 'silent' way in the North, feeding and fending for the population there without fail. In fact, it is no longer disputed that the number one enemy of the state, the LTTE, too gained substantially by the assistance which was unfailingly provided to the people of the North, not only during the closing stages of the conflict, but right through the 30 long years separatist terror had to be fought tooth and nail by the Lankan state.

The welfare state in its essentials has been part of our socio-political landscape from 1948 and the numerous ways in which it stands by the people is very often overlooked or forgotten. But the Environment Minister's timely and beneficial intervention establishes the continuously positive role the agencies of the state generally play in the lives of the people, although they too, like other human institutions, could prove far from perfect, now and then.

If we pause to reflect awhile, it would dawn on us that the remarkable achievements of our Year Five scholars based in the provinces, would not have been possible if the state school system was not up and about. Today, these 'outstation' students are proving that they could be an even match for students hailing from the more fancied provinces. Of course, we have here the evidence that learning ability is not region-specific, but these remarkable developments also point to the beneficial and sustaining power of the state school system, which, no doubt, is not without its faults and shortcomings.

There is an object lesson here for those sections which wish to make a positive impact on public life. That is, nothing of substantive benefit to the people could be achieved effectively without an ongoing constructive engagement with the state. Of course, the basic liberties of all are guaranteed and there are no curbs on those who want to work alone towards the public well being but a constructive and positive engagement with the state could ensure relatively sound and long- lasting positive results.

SLFP: rise of a celebrated party

The Sri Lanka Freedom Party was established on September 2, 1951. Then leaders such as late S.W.R.D.Bandaranaike, D.A.Rajapaksa, Bernard Aluvihare, H. Sri Nissanka and others laid the foundation to what later became a massive political entity. Sixty years later, the SLFP proudly stands as the strongest political party in the country.

Full Story

Have you heard about the Yaka Anti-Defamation League (YADL)?

Some twenty years ago, an academic by the name of Bruce Kapferer, who had done some fieldwork in Sri Lanka during or soon after the bheeshayana (the UNP-JVP Period of Terror, 1988-89), mentioned in passing that the word ‘Yaka’ was used for ‘the lowest form of beings’.

Full Story

K Jayathilaka:

The living icon of Sinhala Literature

Gifted Sri Lankan writer, K. Jayathilaka, is a pioneer of the Sinhala realistic novel. As a creative writer, he showed his talents since the early 1960s. His novels and short stories represent ironic social perspectives and had a profound impact on Sinhalese literature.

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