- On a new path, the Thera is confident the country would provide at least 75% of the fertiliser requirement. ‘We have skilled scientists and research personnel-- not to make compost-- but to establish new techniques to enrich the soil’
The Chairman of the Hela Urumaya and Member of Parliament, Ven. Athuraliye Rathana Thera who played a leading role in toppling the Rajapapksa government is now involved in another revolution-- to create chemical-free food in the country. Amidst rumours about splits in the Hela Urumaya, Ven. Thera says that he does not wish to continue in party politics but to serve the country as an independent MP.
QThe forces spearheaded by you and others brought the present President into power under the much-hyped ‘Maithri rule and a stable country’. Do you think there’s stability now?
No-one can achieve stability in six months or a year. When the behaviour of former political leaders is considered it appears that they could have caused a blood bath. To some extent democracy has been established in the country now. A stable country can earn such a description only when it is devoid of economic issues, riots and civil commotions. The foundation has been laid towards those goals, however.
QSometime back the Jathika Hela Urumaya said that a Dharma Rajiya would be established. Was it an empty slogan to deceive the masses?
Who does not have slogans? The LSSP, the Communist Party and JVP all had slogans. And I do not think they were empty slogans. The Dharma Rajiya concept was introduced because it was more close to the people than socialism. It was the JHU that ended the thirty-year war. Our second stage was to activate the economy so we turned towards democracy. The third stage of our endeavour was to have foods free of poison.
QYou seem to be more involved in this now. What is the plan?
What we have now is an economy without a vision. What we need is sustainable development that would extend over the next twenty years. To achieve that the country should have a definite economic plan. First a reduction in the dependence on chemicals should be in place. Instead of relying on bread and flour, a self-sufficient economic system should be in place.
QWhat about fertiliser?
Presently we import Rs. 50 billion worth of fertiliser and a further Rs. 30 billion worth of pesticides and herbicides.
QThere is a belief that as a result of using inorganic fertilisers over a long period most varieties of seeds had got used to them, making it difficult to shift from inorganic fertilisers to other alternatives.
This is a canard. Most varieties of paddy we cultivate have been developed at our own research stations. They can be grown with the use of compost. The actual issue is with regard to herbicides and pesticides. Presently we can provide fertiliser for 200,000 acres of paddy land; by the next season we could extend it to 300,000. Our target is to reach 500,000 acres. Without any hesitation I can say that by the next season we could provide at least 75% of our fertiliser requirement. We have skilled scientists and research personnel-- not to make compost-- but to establish new techniques to enrich the soil.
QDuring the recent past the JHU also underwent a split. Your close association with it also seemed to be withering. What is the reason for that?
The JHU is in existence and I am its chairman. At the next party convention I will continue only as a consultant while continuing to be an independent member of Parliament. If any conflicting situations arise over policies I will remain neutral. I prefer to be more responsible to society than be connected to party politics. I do not have any animosity against anyone, but hope to win others over to our programme. I am confident that Minister Champika and Ven Omalpe Thera would not object to that.
QAmong those who criticise Mahinda Rajapkasa’s government Ministers Champika, Rajitha and you are in the forefront. But you were at one-time stake holders of that government. Aren’t all of you responsible for the decisions taken at that time?
We always criticised wrong doings. Our criticisms brought about the change of government.
QYou speak about the misdeeds of the former government but do not say anything about what this government is doing.
It is too early and the same old people are there in both parties. A system should be in place where there is a possibility of punishing rulers. But, every one seems to be turning to be better. Hopefully, this transition would see satisfactory results in a decade. It is no use in speaking through newspapers. And there should be collective responsibility; if I continue to criticise I will be categorised as a member of the opposition. During Mahinda Rajapaksa’s rule I expressed my opposition to him personally and not in public.
QDo you see nepotism operating in this government?
It is not glaring. Nepotism means a rule by one family. Throughout history family members were appointed to high posts. We must examine whether these posts were filled with suitably qualified persons or not. Suppose you are an MP. Your brother who is qualified for appointment as an ambassador should not be deprived of such an appointment because you are an MP.
Q Earlier you said that a country devoid of riots and protests portrays a developed country. What about the protests staged by university students, professionals and farmers within 14 months of assuming power?
It is a happy situation where people are free to express themselves.
QMany have claimed that protests had been triggered after this government assumed office.
How can they say that? Can issues aggravate within just one year? This government is burdened with enormous loans. Its development figures appear to be deceitful; a country cannot develop by constructing roads.
QThe Government has introduced a series of new taxes; there is an apparent move to curb subsidies; and an issue connected to power supply is also visible. Don’t you think these are failures of the government?
It is not the result of two transformers breaking down. There is an issue relating to power. When coal power plants are being closed down the world over, why are we depending on coal? We can switch to solar power. The initial capital cost may be high, but later power will cost much less. Correct activation of agriculture and energy policies in our country would have solved many of the issues our country faced.
Q There has been much publicity about elephant calves being kept in temples.
I have no elephants in my temple. It is all right for temples conducting annual Peraheras to rear elephants within the temple grounds. But, it is not good to bring up elephants in temples in the same way you bring up cats and dogs. Monks should not be engaged in such of activities.