Transcript- P.M.B. Fernando

Posted on September 3, 2010

 03 September 2010

 Mr. P. M. B. Fernando


 C.R. de Silva: At the very outset I must apologize to you for the long delay for the reason that from 2 o’clock we were having sittings and … 

Fernando: Well a thing like this can’t be timed accurately so it goes on.

C. R. de Silva: Yes.

 Fernando: Mr. Chairman and Members of the Commission I have handed in a note on what my views are and I don’t intend reading it out again. So what I will do is I will make a few comments on what I have said there. 

 The main concern is the business of reconciliation. Now there are 3 areas or so which I have considered. The first is the political solution. Now here, it would seem to me that most of the people in the north and east (leave alone the south) are not overly concerned with forming a constitution. I think what they would want rather was some kind of participation in decision making. Now naturally you can’t expect them to make recommendations on import duties, export duties and various things like that, but at their level, at the village level, there is a possibility of them advising and recommending things that are of importance to them in that area. So I think this is something that should be fostered so they can produce these ideas produce these plans and the Department of Planning can pick them up and turn them into coherent projects either to benefit one village or to benefit a cluster of villages, because it is likely that there may be 2/3 villages who want the same sort of thing so that it can be got together. In this way they would be given a feeling that they are in fact participating in the conduct of their day to day life at a decision making level which is, I wouldn’t say appropriate, but which is within their competence and within their sphere of activities.

 The second matter is a matter of language. Here there is a strange situation where a large number of people in the country – a substantial number – they vote Governments into power and thereafter … they help to vote to bring into power and thereafter they cannot communicate with the organs of the Government because – language. Now here of course that part of it could be dealt with in an administrative way. For immediate needs there is a need for administrative decisions to be taken which make it possible for them to deal with the organs of the Government in we will say Tamil okay because Tamil and Sinhala are the two languages. But this is at best a temporary solution, not very temporary but it is a factual cooperation. You need something more lasting and more permanent, and here I think you got to go to the schools.

My suggestion is that in the primary classes from Grades 1 to 5 children be taught all 3 languages so that they are given a grounding in their mother tongue, in the other mother tongue and in English. English is essential because that is a window on the world and without that we become like frogs in a well. But also the other 2 languages for inter-communication. Now here there are I think there seems to be one or two problems. The Sinhala and Tamil teachers they seem to be adequate right through the country but there are something like 9,662 schools in the country which have primary grades, or are purely primary classes, primary schools, but comparatively the number of English teachers in Grades 1 to 5 is 1,946. So there is a tremendous gap. Now the question is how we are going to settle that gap.

There are in the country – there is a National Institute of Education; there are 4 University faculties of education; 17 colleges of education; 4 teacher education institutes and 100 teacher centres; and 30 regional English support centres. Now leave the big numbers aside and get down to the smaller groups that are spread throughout the island; that is your 100 teacher centres and may be the 30 regional centres – say 100 in all. You have a deficit of 7 to 8,000. So that distributed among the 100 will make it 80 per institute which is not a very large sum when you consider that a normal class has about 30 or so. So it is really 2 classes. And these should be drawn from the rural areas because there would be a number of children who pass their A/Levels but who are unable to find jobs, and the A/Level exam, if I am not mistaken, whatever the subjects you do there is a compulsory English paper English language, so that they could all be expected to have some sort of smattering of the language – English.  So if these we do (done) is to hone up and develop and I think these institutions can do that and once that is done then the deficiencies or the…this will be 5 years. So during that period the shortage of English teachers which is a problem in the other schools could be gradually met so that they will, when this lot comes in to the upper areas, there will be teachers for them.

Now both these things will help to bring together the two ethnic groups. Incidentally the thought struck me that once this gets going I think we would be able to eliminate different Sinhala schools and different Tamil schools and have single schools carrying both streams like they did long ago.  When I went to school there were this, you know, Sinhalese and Tamil together, but here you have the Sinhala stream and the Tamil stream running together in the same school. This will make for a better link up and better inter-connection between children of the 2 communities, and I think it is in the children that future ethnic harmony is to be established because I think adults there are all kinds of problems that have crept up and attitudes and so on. But you start with the children from the beginning and you give them a sense of togetherness then that will develop with them. I won’t say that these other problems will go – they will be there – but to a large extent, and in fact to a greater extent, there will be this harmony.

Then while these two things will help together bring together the ethnic groups then there is the other matter of territorial integration. We have seen the damage that could be done if there is a divide in the country between two areas. We saw it in the CFA. Now the point is this; that even at the time the CFA was signed there were a number of Tamil people from the north who had moved into the south and settled down here. So that, I mean, they didn’t go to India and they didn’t go abroad.

Now, if we can integrate the various sections of the country – I am talking of the provinces – that could be done through projects; that projects should take into account the fact that they should not be limited to one area or one province but they could be projects that serve more than one province at the same time. I think there is one – Mahaweli system – I can’t remember the name I am not quite sure – but which does that. Now some of these things could be – you know roads.  We know what happened to the A-9. But things like water supply, power supply, those cannot easily be disrupted or broken. So things like that are one of them.   

And there is a suggestion I made here which is power production from DENDRO – Dendro Thermal Power. Now that is there. Glyricidia Plantations are used to produce power. The trees are grown and apparently in 15 months time they get to the point where the branches can be lopped, cut – those branches are cut and dried and they are burnt and power is produced like that. Now this, it may seem that it does not do very much in that for a 80 hectare area of glyricidia you produced 100 kilowatts – not very much. But this can be multiplied. You know you can have these they are small things and you can have them in a number of areas, and if they can be grown and the job done across provincial boundaries and pieces from both provinces – and this of course should apply I think to the whole country not merely north and east and the rest of the country. People from both provinces are used to work on it. Then that will give them another incentive to stick together because there is a requirement then that they hang together because you see I have noted the  employment opportunities.   

I put it this way. The care of the power plant would be in the hands of those qualified in science or electrical engineering after preliminary training. There is believed to be a Dendro Thermal Plant set up by CTC and Lanka Transformers. Training could be arranged there or perhaps in Germany where it is reported that such plants are manufactured. Training and setting up of the plant could take place while the trees are growing so that when the trees are grown and the plant is in place  operation of the plant can commence. 

Then, tending the glyricidia plantation would be another source of employment. Persons could be drawn for this purpose from the area and work under the supervision and guidance of officials of the Department of Agriculture, those who have suitable educational qualifications being gradually trained to take over at which point the departmental officers will have purely an overlooking and advisory function.  Supervision, guidance and training could commence from the planting stage itself.  In other words when they start planting you put your people in there and train them on the job.  

Cattle rearing and dairying would supply their own sources of employment. Agro industries and other industries that come up would be considerable sources of employment. Small and medium industries in particular could flourish. Now I tried to point out what groups can come in here. At the graduate level science graduates could run the Dendro Thermal Plants and find employment in the agro and other industries. Arts graduates could handle the administration of the plantations, the dendro thermal plants and the industries that come up. At other levels employment will be available for tending the plantations and small plots including garden plots. All these areas are available for both men and women without distinction and with minimal, if at all, disruption of their normal place of residence.

 So depending on the size of your plantation and the size of your plant you have this employment in the area and also among the educated unemployed because for the day to day running and the administration, apart from the graduates on top you get round the point where A/Level people could be used; O/level people could be used to run these, or to help in running them.

 Well, I think that is about it.

 Q & A:

 Hangawatte: Thank you Mr. Fernando. Could you please, in terms of a political solution you mentioned that there should be participation in decision making; I believe you mentioned the public participation. Can you please elaborate on that? – what type of structures or any particular administrative structures or anything that you would recommend?

Fernando: I was thinking that you have to go down to the people and there you have certain basic organizations like Village Councils and Gam Sabhas right.  Now there you get a real people input into what they want.  They can decide what they want in their areas in the way of … well they are small developments – may be roads; may be bridges; may be schools; may be hospitals are not been looked after properly; and these things can be raised and achieved. But once they produce ideas these ideas can be taken by the professional planners – that is the Department of Planning – and then welded into projects, in which again, they should have a part to play overseeing the project or even taking part in it; because at that level, when they have that they will be given the sense of participating in something that affects them. 

Paranagama: Mr. Fernando, the problem is this. At the village level you get these people.  To get their ideas together is very difficult. I know in my village temple when the priest calls the Dayaka Sabhawa he wants me to come with my Police Constable because you see when they get together and suggest one oppose because they are jealous of one party and ultimately they quarrel and nothing happens. It is very difficult to get these people together and think unitedly. Before all that we have to transform them to think they are human.  It is very difficult in the village. My village the priest never holds the Dayaka Sabhawa until I come with my Police Constable Court Sergeant you see.  Ultimately they abuse each other. So that sort of a thing happens.  On paper it is very nice but practically when you go to do…ultimately they get together and they fight each; they argue; the unity of the village also goes for a six.  They divide into two groups and they fight each other.  So on paper it is very nice but practically when you go to do many problems arise.  

Fernando: I guess there will be problems but it seems to me that if we can persist with this and achieve something in some way there must be some areas on which they can agree on what they want.

 Paranagama: At this moment I remember a very famous priest…one priest said “Minisa hada gama hadamu; gama hada rata hadamu”. So first what we have to do – we have to transform the man. Think humanly; jointly think and unitedly work; thereafter you build the village; then thereafter the villagers will get together and build the country. So I think we have to go along with it.

Fernando: Indeed we have. It is not a…there is no sort of short cuts to this.

Paranagama: There is a long way to go.

Fernando: Yes, we have a long way to go. But on the other hand you have this from the schools – if these two groups can be made to get together, you know secondary school – say 10 years is your schooling period – by that time there would be enough inter-communication between the ethnic groups to be able to do something.

Rohan Perera: Arising from that last question from my brother Commissioner, would you say the solution could perhaps lie when it comes to the third tier of devolution, that is when we get down to the Local Government – the Municipal Councils, Urban Councils, the Town Councils, the Village Councils – perhaps the conduct of elections on a non political party basis so that the focus would be on the day to day village affairs or …

Fernando: Well that would I think …

Rohan Perera: … at the third tier?

Fernando: Yes, that would be a solution because then…because from what I have learnt these clashes occur are likely political. The local politician or whoever sort of gets into the picture and the other man on the other side gets into the picture and they factionalize. So if you can persuade them to hold these elections on the basis of non party basis on the basis of problems – because the problems they would know and the problems would be common whatever the party is. 

C.R. de Silva: So I think I must take this opportunity on behalf of the Commission in thanking you for that very clear presentation that you made. We are certainly possessed of your observations and ideas and we will be taking that into consideration in formulating our recommendations. Thank you.

Fernando: Thank you         

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