August 20, 2019
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    For the first time in the history of Sri Lankan Railways, the Asian Development Bank has approved a loan worth 160 million dollars to modernize the operations and improve the efficiency of Colombo suburban railway service, Transport and Civil Aviation Minister Arjuna Ranathunga said.The agreement with regard to this is scheduled to be signed tomorrow at the Finance Ministry.

    Three new European envoys accredited to Sri Lanka presented their credentials to President Maithripala Sirisena at the President’s House in Colombo today (July 19). The Envoys who presented credentials were Ms Trine Eskedel – Ambassador of Kingdom of Norway, Mrs Sarah Hulton – High Commissioner of United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and Mrs Tanja Gonggrijp – Ambassador of Netherlands.

    Who is a humanitarian? Anyone who loves humanity can be called a humanitarian, but in modern times the term has evolved to describe people who will even risk their lives to save others, often without any form of payment or incentive. While the term humanitarian usually involves helping people in distress, there are plenty of people like the famous ‘Cat Man of Aleppo’ who help animals facing the same predicaments – they are no less humanitarian.
    It is important to recognize the fact that there are individuals and organisations who take great risks to help others in times of war, famine, disease, natural or man-made disasters and environmental crisis, among other things. Their work and lives are worth celebrating, for the world will be an even more dangerous place if humanitarians do not step in. Increasingly, women are becoming more active in the field of humanitarianism.
    Indeed, the United Nations has designated today (August 19) as the World Humanitarian Day. World Humanitarian Day is dedicated to recognizing the work of humanitarian personnel and those who have lost their lives working for humanitarian causes. International days like this are occasions to educate the public on issues of concern, to mobilize political will and resources to address global problems, and to celebrate and reinforce achievements of humanity.
    The origins of the World Humanitarian Day can be traced to a very dark incident in UN history. On August 19, 2003, a terrorist attack hit the United Nations headquarters in Baghdad, killing 22 people. Among those who lost their lives was Sergio Vieira de Mello, the UN’s top representative in Iraq. Five years later, the UN General Assembly adopted a resolution designating August 19 as World Humanitarian Day. Every year since then, the humanitarian community has organised global campaigns to commemorate WHD, advocating for the safety and security of humanitarian aid workers, and for the survival, well-being and dignity of people affected by crises.
    This year, the world is honouring women humanitarians who work in crises-ridden areas throughout the world under the tag #womenhumanitarians. The focus will be on the unsung heroes who have long been working on the front lines in their own communities in some of the most difficult terrains, from the war-wounded in Afghanistan, to the food insecure in the Sahel, to those who have lost their homes and livelihoods in places such as Central African Republic, South Sudan, Syria and Yemen. Syria is a particularly horrendous example that shows the conditions under which humanitarians work - An estimated 4 million people are currently still living in the north-western part of the Syrian Arab Republic, which after 8 years of war is the one of the worst-affected regions. Civilians face daily bombardments, shelling and other forms of violence. Health facilities are frequently the focus of attacks. And the UN Member States will salute the efforts of women aid workers from across the world, who rally to people in need.
    Female strength, power and perseverance
    In fact, women make up a large number of those who risk their own lives to save others. “Women humanitarians dedicate their lives to helping people affected by crises. They are often the first to respond and the last to leave. These women deserve to be celebrated. They are needed today as much as ever to strengthen the global humanitarian response. And world leaders as well as non-state actors must ensure that they – and all humanitarians – are guaranteed the protection afforded to them under international law,” says the UN in a statement issued to mark the World Humanitarian Day. Women Humanitarians hold a sense of unparalleled uniqueness, one that adds to the global momentum of female strength, power and perseverance. This year’s campaign on Women Humanitarians supports the recognition that women deserve in the strengthening of global humanitarian response as well as in protection efforts under the international law.
    Women and girls are particularly vulnerable during emergencies and often bear the brunt of the impact of forced displacement. Evidence tells us that issues such as gender-based violence (which includes sexual assault, domestic violence, sexual exploitation, child marriage, abduction, and female genital mutilation) spike quickly during crises and remain at extremely high levels throughout. Meanwhile in protracted emergencies access to services can be hugely restricted. That means girls don’t get an education, and women don’t have the opportunity to access decent and safe work. Emergencies cause immense suffering for millions of people – usually the world’s poorest, most marginalized and vulnerable individuals. Humanitarian aid workers, including health care workers, strive to provide life-saving assistance and long term rehabilitation to disaster-affected communities, regardless of where they are in the world and without discrimination based on nationality, social group, religion, sex, race or any other factor.
    Stories of personal sacrifice
    A letter written by 400 the world’s leading women humanitarians to world leaders and the UN recently stated: “Women caught up in disasters are sometimes portrayed as helpless victims and passive recipients of foreign kindness, but nothing could be further from the truth. Whether working for aid agencies, or supporting their families and their communities in other ways, local women and girls are the invisible face of recovery in some of the world’s most difficult places.
    Together we fight for those who have been forgotten, whose rights have been violated, and whose pleas for help have been ignored. As we celebrate the role of women humanitarians with uplifting stories of personal sacrifice and collective resilience, let us not lose sight of how much more there is still to do before we can say that we truly honour these women.
    Whether it’s the scarce resources to tackle the epidemic of gender-based violence; the “Global Gag Rule” designed to restrict sexual and reproductive health services; the poor provision of transformative programmes such as education and livelihoods; the slow progress to end sexual harassment, exploitation and abuse; or the pittance of funding that finds its way to local women’s organisations, we have seen the gap between rhetoric and reality widen in recent years when it comes to women and girls living in crises. This gap cannot stand, we cannot continue to fail women by letting global action stop at words alone.”
    This letter indicates the challenges faced by women in distress and the women who help them regardless of the risk to their very lives. The working conditions for women humanitarian workers are becoming increasingly dangerous. This means that the basic principles of international humanitarian law and the Geneva Conventions are more relevant than ever, 70 years after they were passed. One of the most important rules is that humanitarian workers and civilians should not be made the target of attacks, and that there should be criminal penalties when this rule is breached. There were more than 400 acts of violence against humanitarian aid workers in 2018, causing 131 fatalities. According to this year’s Aid Worker Security Report, most attacks took place in South Sudan. These words are especially significant given that the world will celebrate the 25th anniversary of the Beijing Declaration on Women which was a landmark at the time.
    Here in Sri Lanka, we are no strangers to the concept of humanitarianism, as helping others is an intrinsic part of our lives. We saw how the entire country came together to help the victims of the 2004 Boxing Day tsunami. Even in the current spell of bad weather, there were reports of good samaritans saving those in distress. Indeed, women in Sri Lanka have been playing the role of humanitarians for centuries. ut there is perhaps a need to more formally organise the humanitarian sector in the country.


    Sufficit huic tumulus cui non suffecerit mundus.

    A mere tomb sufficeth for him to whom the world did not suffice.

    (Said of Alexander the Great)

    Our country is blessed with many natural resources many of which are renewable. The whole of our earth is so fertile and the sea around is so plentiful of fish. There falls an abundance of rainwater from the skies, the sun shines throughout the year, the air is continually freshened by a bountiful vegetation and a pulsating climate makes life so agreeably pleasant and exciting in any corner of the land one chooses to live in and work. Well planned national development could have better economically harnessed these resources for our own use as well as for export to earn much needed income. They should be done by intelligent patriotic entrepreneurs who share a vision of a thriving future shared by all the people of this country. Without the concordance of the major political parties unhealthy rivalry and retardation of national development and progress was inevitable. They were selfishly attached to their parties. Love of the country and its good-hearted people were far behind.


    A happy and contended people live in happy and contended families, communities and society. It is the families and communities that generate society. Society or the national community is built on families and communities which are bound by special relations which are as numerous as there are families and communities. Society cannot be developed and built by weakening and destroying any community. Communities should be appropriately renewed, united. Communities are varied racial, religious, linguistic, cultural, professional, aesthetic, sporting and committed to the pursuit of invigorating leisure.

    Communities function well when they relate well to other different communities. Many well-functioning communities mean that people are vibrant with life and are contented and happy. Contentment and happiness is what counts. Many people living in very poor dwellings live happier lives than those living in luxurious and affluent palaces. Contentment and happiness is in the interior, the mind and soul of a person. When a person’s interior is in a good condition, that person is self-possessed and not given over to destructive cravings.

    Fascism, Nazism, atheistic Communism, liberal Capitalism rob many ordinary democracy loving people their freedom and happiness. Extremism of the ‘fuhrer’, ‘duce’, the Party Chief becomes the law. The twentieth century also showed the world the most vicious dictatorships that sought to conquer the world with militarism but brought nightmares to many people. They have brought not only griefs and tears but also genocide to whole communities.

    Some people who have left everything of a very legitimate secular life and embraced a religious life that envisions deep, luminous and sublime horizons that validate their commitment have abandoned such visionary dedication for a narrow social consciousness and a partisan political option contrary to the humanity and freedom of many people.


    Politics in Sri Lanka has descended to despicably low levels. Rather than being dedicated to the common good and the progress of the country, politicians want to do well for themselves, their kith and kin and friends by hoarding wealth even by short-sighted policies and selfish measures that trap the already poor in a vicious cycle of perpetual poverty. To them can be applied what was said even of Alexander the Great: Sufficit huic tumulus cui non suffecerit mundus. A mere tomb finally sufficeth for him to whom the world did not suffice.

    The time has come for Sri Lanka’s people to be keenly aware that the politicians of the last regime and many in the present one have led the country to an impassable and treacherous economic situation that means a continuous dark night for many people and their progeny.

    The people wanted to abolish the executive presidency and change a Constitution that enabled the President and permitted the legislators to act irresponsibly and engage in many corrupt practices by which they could enrich themselves overnight by inhumanly exploiting the common wealth of the people making them forever dependent on the measly treatment of politicians. The people should realize that those they have chosen as their representatives and sent to the national legislature are men and women of worthless character. Many of them should be jailed for the social crimes that they have committed against the sovereign people. This cannot be done unless the people are irreproachable.

    Many believe that an altogether new Constitution that will close all the loopholes in the present one and containing new checks and balances will remedy the extremely sad situation which the people have been thrown into. But it should not be forgotten that the best of Constitutions cannot save the people from the gridlock of obscene fraudulence of legislators who without any sense of shame augment their gains impoverishing the people among whom are a large number of the malnourished, the starved and the poorest of the poor.


    Mahatma Gandhi reminded the people that there is a much overlooked plague of modernity. Legal luminaries and constitutional experts presume that an intelligent social process could devise a perfectly good system of government in which the human beings themselves need not be good.

    The common good of social order should be a concrete reality and not an imaginary theoretical utopian design. Progress should be made in view of a goal. A façade of progress cannot camouflage a never-ending indebtedness that burdens the people. In spite of laws being made and codes of ethics meticulously drawn up, the legislators, highly positioned authorities and powerful bureaucrats of every government have sunk into a filthy pit of corruption.

    A good new Constitution, which is not partisan, well drawn-up with the participation of the people is very necessary. The past and present rogues who have in all manner of ways robbed the people and defrauded the government put forward all sorts of reasons also with the support of some unthinking and short-sighted clergymen have obstructed the attempt to draw up a new Constitution. The people should demand the drawing up of a new Constitution in the coming elections because the promise made in the last elections to draw up and adopt a new Constitution was never kept.

    However, the new Constitution could only be an instrument which designs the basic rules, ways and manners of living together, the skills, practices and social habits, various tasks, duties and roles of cooperation and collaboration that are open to efficient coordination so that the institutions and agencies of the State could operate smoothly. Nevertheless good and honest men and women – a whole set of men and women changed for the better – are an absolute necessity if the State institutions and agencies are to function without creaking and the people duly served.


    Who will supply the State social institutions and State agencies with the men and women needed to operate them? The whole education system from the pre-school to universities, law colleges and professional associations that impart knowledge, skills and training should be thoroughly overhauled. Those passing out of educational institutions should be well equipped with a social consciousness and the adult character of a good conscience so that they are able to see in the face of any member of the human family a person, a brother or sister endowed with the same human dignity as their own.

    People of today are highly conscious of their human dignity and human rights. Human cooperation, duties, service and collaboration become vibrant with human feelings and desires which must react and respond to values. There are personal values such as courteous attention, considerate understanding, responsibility and loving kindness that one cherishes, besides social, democratic and religio-moral values which are very central to community life. With humankind growing more ‘adult’ it would seem natural that the collective moral awareness would develop and the conscience of the people become more sensitive to human dignity, rights and duties.

    Non-believers and those indifferent to and against religion should realize a salient truth. If the Church and other religions were propounding only an opium of an other worldly paradise and nothing else, millions of people would not have silently resisted the utopias of five centuries of anti-religious philosophies and especially the Hitlerite Fascism and Marxist-Leninist Communism and other forms of atheism during the twentieth century.

    Religious authorities have a grave responsibility in preserving and promoting these values in society. Society is in some sense incomplete without the vitality of religious values pervading the hearts of people and enlightening them. All people should be ingrained in these values as no development and progress can take place without the genuine all round development of every person in every community.

    There is no meaning in conducting ‘Daham Paselas’ or banning of tuition in tutories on Sundays unless instruction in Religion also contained the substantial wherewithal that help transform the lives of schoolchildren and young people into lives of splendorous virtue. It should be mainly in the Religion classes and exhortations in temples that the young and old should learn such things as always speaking the truth, never stealing, never deceiving, always being honest, being kind, gentle, patient, respectful of elders, aged and helpless, helping the poor and the weak, refraining from bullying and every form of evil behaviour. That too could be done only by exemplary and virtuous teachers. And no teacher glaringly short of virtue should ever be sent to any school as a teacher of any subject.

    Now that is a tall order for a UNP, SLFP, SLPP government to implement: to reverse retardation, reinstate honesty and integrity and kick-start development and progress. Unfortunately the legislators and politicians, high officials and bureaucrats are not sufficiently sensitive in this regard as they have been coarsened by a long period of unbelievable social ennui and moral languor and even covered-up crime. The intractable problems of legislators, sneakily buying State properties for a song, of stealthily syphoning off commissions from massive government purchases of various things from war planes, coconuts and garbage, pick-pocketing billions through bond scams and every other form of corrupt and crooked deals, first arise in the hearts and minds of politicians who occupy the offices of president, the prime minister, minister, ambassador, and ministerial secretaries, corporation directors and a host of offices of men and women in high positions. When their moral sense has broken down, civilization flounders and the stench of political filth pollutes the national atmosphere and social life of the country.

    The violence and deaths during the civil war, later communal clashes, destruction of life and property of innocent people were a symptom of a breakdown of civilization and the nonexistence of religious values. Men have lost the valuable centre of the interior spiritual life and have become passive in the face of viciousness and evil. In such a context, the great temptation is to install a Hitler-like dictator.

    A new sense of purpose should occupy the minds of the Sri Lankan people. If they wish to see a well-governed country, they themselves should be democratic, just and fair and they should dump the political rascals who never can submit to the law, restore good order and treat all equally. The people should listen to the sober minded social leaders and guides and elect a collective of intelligent and reasonable men and women who could save the country.

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