Opinion - Page 3

Why is education in Sri Lanka not meeting future challenges?

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You have heard it said that our education system is broken, it is in a perilous state. For that matter, we read in social media stories of political appointments to Government schools, tinkering with education? Parents are feeling desperate where their children are going to end up, not only in social status, but facing life in the future. The educational system “as is” may not be able at present to think for future needs, for a “future ready society”.

When I was growing up, we imported educators from abroad to train our teachers, to raise our standards of education “to compete in the world.”

We saw the arrival of the American and other religious missionaries to our schools.  Examples were Rev. Robert Stopford, an Anglican missionary principal of Trinity College, Kandy, a Cambridge educated principal, Rev. Fr.T.M.F.Long at St. Patrick’s College, Rev. S.K. Bunker at Jaffna College and many others. The view at that time was learning from the experience of educators from abroad, was essential. In turn our own educators, were sent abroad to get the best qualification in teaching.

I for instance, was not good in Tamil, but that did not put me off. I devoted much of my life, to what I was good at and benefitted.

Today, none of it is possible, without the political will, the long term planning and the continually evolving, change in line with economic growth and future demands of society.

No forward thinking education?

We are warned to think for the future, “a future ready society”. We need to rethink our ideas how our learning systems are currently organised, resourced and supported.

We need to think and teach higher level thinking skills and develop key competencies using technology to prepare students for the 21st century. We need a personalised approach in the classroom, where students can take control of their own learning.

I call this “Personalised Learning”. It means students understand “how they learn, what they learn and what drives their learning”.

Students now have to learn their learning needs, their interests, and their capability to determine the pace of learning. In this environment, the advantage of technology is that students can use the content and be the experts in their subjects of interest, which society demands for a worthwhile career, assisted by their teachers. They can create content they need for the future with the resources that have not traditionally been thought of as part of the schooling system. Education must be able to provide how to think like a mathematician, like a historian, like an environmentalist.

Education for the future?

We face unprecedented challenges – social, economic, environmental – driven by war, accelerated social integration, women not being allowed an education, globalisation and a faster rate of technological development.

These challenges are at the same time providing new opportunities for advancement. 

Change is the only constant in our present lives. The future seems uncertain. Schools of the future should be able provide the skills, attitudes and values to thrive students to shape their world.

There is no forward thinking in education at present in our education system. There is no ability driven education. The days are gone when specialisation in career education was required. Today, students must be given a challenge to find out for themselves how humanity will address the problems of the future, including those linked with sustainability, globalisation, non-globalisation, citizenship and enterprise.

We in Sri Lanka do not allow our students to think about their future lives, the interests they have ingrained, and the challenges they have to meet head on.

Let us go back in time to education among Sinhalese and Tamils some 50 odd years ago, why, that far, say some 30 years ago. Most Sinhala students were generally very good in spoken English and literature; Tamils were predominantly scientifically minded, excelled in Maths and Science, and had an aptitude for theories. Both wanted to be Engineers, Doctors, and Accountants. Today, it seems students are all satisfied with ordinary jobs.

Have our students within a generation or two, “lost their brains”? Have they “lost their ambition”? Has society forced them to be complacent? Has our recent history made us indolent, not enterprising?

What kind of people do we hope our students will become by the time they leave school in 2030? What kind of career jobs will be open to them when they leave school? Will they have to create their own jobs, or fit into the market niche?

These are some of the serious questions that educators in our land have to address themselves. We know each of our students have hidden talents, which need to be explored and teachers must be able to be talent scouts.

We need to explore the advantage of expertise in technology. To navigate through such uncertainty, students of today first need discipline, they need curiosity, imagination, and resilience. They will need to cope with failure and rejection. They need to move forward in the face of adversity. Their motivation will be more than getting a good job, a high income.

Challenges are not new. Sri Lankans had many hurdles to overcome. Sinhalese students went abroad to advance their professional skills. Tamils who were uprooted and went as refugees abroad, were forced to learn a new language, German, French and or spoken English, to survive.

Today, all students needed to think of their new environment, either in the land of tomorrow in Sri Lanka, or abroad, how they are going to cope with “climate change,” with new types of disease, with sustainable living. They need to shape their own lives and contribute to the lives of others, to make life meaningful.

The risks and rewards of education in today’s world are many. Educators in Sri Lanka have a duty to think well ahead into the future and provide an education for a “future ready society”.

The War and Peace in Europe

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Russian troops foundering in Ukraine, a Russian TV Presenter, Vladimir Solovyou, on “Russia 1 Show” unlike President Putin described the conflict as a war as opposed to a “special operation”. He was speaking at a time when bit by bit Ukrainians are recapturing village by village. They have surrounded town after town, cut off Russian troops, running out of ammunition, abandoned Russian weaponry.

It looks as if the bid to force into combat the 300,000 reservists is falling flat, as we hear the Russian youth stream towards neighbouring Republics’ borders in desperation. The surrounding Republics like Kazakhstan do not know where to house all the Russian escapists.

At a time when Ukrainian forces are making significant gains in the east of their country, reaching a key town like Lyman at the weekend, President Putin is hardly unnerved. He has said that the West wants to destroy the very existence of his country. He said on Wednesday, 5 October 2022, “We always and even today despite the current tragedy, hold great respect for the Ukrainian people, Ukrainian culture, language and literature.” However, he has vowed to “stabilise” the situation in the four regions of Ukraine whose annexation he proclaimed on the same day as above, as they accordingly are citizens of Russia. We also know that the transition period will last until 2026.

French President Macron’s ambitious European Political Community

Not wanting to upstage the European solidarity with Ukraine, and to tie up the loose ends as it were in Europe, with the demands of a two stage development in European Union, with Hungary, Poland and Italy, all desiring greater freedom, and with Brexit Britain, outside, President Emmanuel Macron’s new “Political Club EPC” had its inaugural meeting in Prague on 6 October 2022.

Leaders of 44 European countries, including 27 EU members, plus 17 others, some seeking EU membership, like Turkey and others like Azerbaijan, in Eastern Europe, plus long-time foes like Serbia gathered in Prague. All they had in common was they wanted to ease tense relations amongst themselves, economic situation, climate, migration and mobility.

The other common factor was they were all against Russia and Belarus, both of whom were uninvited to the Political Club of Europe.

No formal policy statements, no resolutions or declarations were issued. However, what was achieved in one day, would have taken years to resolve.

Although it is too early to judge, the EPC, like most alliances of likeminded democracies now demanding to form a united front against Russia. At the same time, it is not a replacement for existing defence alliances, like the NATO. It gives credence to what President Putin has maintained all along, an expansion of European influence on the borders of Russia. Here, we note President Putin’s fears have been answered,

At the same time, it has united the leaders of all of Europe, including Brexit Britain and P.M. Liz Truss and President Macron who used the occasion to have a bilateral meeting at the side-lines to trash out their differences. After criticising President Macron as “friend or foe” during her election rallies to become Prime Minister, Liz Truss stated yesterday, “President Macron is a friend of Britain”. President Macron replied in kind, stating it would mark a new start for relations between Britain and the EU after Brexit. Did you know that all along they were playing politics, while there is much good will between each, with President Macron going the added mile by sending his border guards to “the beaches of

Normandy,” to stop illegal migration across the Channel.

All of Europe, or rather most of Europe is laughing at how President Putin has united once enemies, the countries of Two Speed Europe, Hungary and Poland, who threatened to veto the EU Multi-Year Budget in late 2020 over plans to create a “rule of law mechanism”. Besides, it has given much recognition to Turkey in its admission to EU Membership. More than anything, it has made Poland satisfied for the time being, in its demand for nuclear arsenals to be located to protect itself from Russian invasion.

Vive la France!

Is Canada Providing Free Run for Separatists and Terrorists?

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It is well recognized all over the world that Canada is a glorious country with vast and beautiful landscapes, considerable natural and mineral resources and many attractive tourist spots. Given these reasons, Canada remains a prosperous country, though underpopulated.

In such favourable circumstances, the practice of welcoming migrants and refugees from various countries to Canada is adopted as a policy measure by the Government of Canada, not only to bolster its population level but also to reflect its humane approach. Today, people from several countries including Europe, Asia and Africa have migrated to Canada and settled down as full-fledged citizens, enjoying liberty, rights and privileges that the Canadian government liberally provide to its citizens.

However, there also seem to be a negative angle to such liberal policy towards migrants and refugees, as the demographic structure of Canada is getting disturbed and a sort of sectarian outlook appears to be developing between different groups with varying background, which may create friction in the coming years. Even now, there is evidence of such friction happening. So far, it appears that the government of Canada has not looked into a such possible scenario with the seriousness and care that they deserve.

Such developments have taken place in Western Europe also in recent times when thousands of refugees/migrants from Syria and other Islamic countries were permitted to enter Europe on humanitarian grounds. These migrants /refugees are unable to get integrated into the general population, as they lack the skill or sufficient education and have different religious practices. Such a situation has resulted in an increased level of crimes and violence and shootings in European countries in recent times and there is huge concern about such a situation. Recently, some Hindu temples were attacked in UK by those belonging to the Islam religion and many people wonder whether this would be the state of things to come in Europe in the coming years. Governments in Europe seem to be at a loss not knowing how to tackle this difficult situation, which is causing social tension and violence in public life.

In Canada, one serious development is that separatists and terrorist elements who manage to get entry into Canada as migrants, however small in number they may be in the total population, are getting entrenched in Canada. It appears that the Canadian government have ignored such elements so far since separatism and terrorism are not targeted or aimed at Canada but at other countries in the world. Such developments are now causing anxiety and huge concern to other affected countries such as Sri Lanka, India

LTTE, a separatist and extremist group with the declared objective of splitting Sri Lanka by force, has largely operated and seems to be now operating from Canadian soil. While this is causing a serious problem for Sri Lanka, the Canadian government have allowed them to operate in Canada and not bothering about the concern of the Sri Lankan government.

In an almost similar way, the Khalistan movement is operating in Canada with the declared objective of forming a separate Khalistan state in India. Despite India’s appeal, the Canadian government has not checked the activities and growth of the Khalistan separatist movement in Canada.

The Canadian government is doing a very big mistake by thinking that such separatists and terrorist groups operating in Canada will not harm Canada but only other countries.

But the recent experience shows that stabbings in Canada have become too frequent. Entrenched separatist groups have started attacking innocent people who may belong to India or other countries. Against which the separatist groups are operating. Very recently, a series of stabbing at an indigenous community in a town nearby Saskatchewan has left ten people dead and fifteen wounded. In 2020, a man disguised as a police officer shot people in their homes and set fire across the province of Nova Scotia killing 22 people. In 2019, a man used a van to kill ten pedestrians in Toronto. 

Recently, a few Indian students have been killed and Hindu religious centres have been attacked.

The situation in Canada has caused so much concern to the Government of India that it has advised students and visitors from India to be careful to safeguard themselves in public places against violent acts by some terrorist groups.

The writing on the wall is now very clear concerning the likely scenario in future in Canada concerning law and order.

Tolerating terrorists and separatists in the name of personal liberty and freedom on Canadian soil will become a suicidal path for Canada if such policy would not scrapped immediately. The terrorists will not only cause problems elsewhere but will also convert Canadian soil into a hotbed of terrorism if the Canadian government were to fail to understand the gravity of the situation and take necessary measures to control the separatist/terrorist groups operating freely in Canada now.

India: Reviving Congress

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What a week where the Congress party has all but made a laughing stock of itself. Ashok Gehlot has landed himself in serious trouble. He is 71. A comeback is unlikely.

He has been an active, reliable, astute leader, with a mass following. I have known him for over 40 years and have great affection and regard for him. In these four decades he did not put a foot wrong. The “neutral” Sonia Gandhi obviously knows Dante well, who wrote, nine hundred years ago, “The hottest place in Hell are reserved for those who in time of great moral crises maintain their neutrality”. She shed her neutrality in no time. So long as she lives, she will have deity status. She is an expert at back seat driving. Can she revive the Congress? No.

Of the two contenders for president of the Congress party, Mallikarjun Kharge and Shri Shashi Tharoor, I have never met the former. He is 80 years of age. The younger voters will certainly not opt for him. Shashi Tharoor, I have known him for several years. He is a fine orator and an outstanding author. He deserves to win. But he will not. He does not have the blessings of Mother Superior. Besides, unlike Kharge he is not rooted in the Congress. Oddly, none of the G-23 are supporting him.

Digvijaya Singh has been deprived of the Presidentship by Shri Kharge, who did not play fair with the former CM of Madhya Pradesh. He would have, as President put some life in Congress. Surprisingly he made one serious mistake. As far as I know, he did not meet Shrimati Sonia Gandhi. He paid the price.
The Lok Sabha elections are to be held in 2024. At present the Congress party had fifty-two members in the Lok Sabha. That number is not likely to go up as of now. Not with Kharge at the helm.

PM Narendra Modi will remain Prime Minister till 2029. His international standing is high. Within India he faces no challenge.


Shri Mohan Bhagwat, the head of RSS, made headlines when he met Imam Umer Ahmed Illyas a few days back. It was a courageous and wise move. It would have given millions of Muslims much comfort. How many non-RSS non-BJP Indians recall the fact that during the rule of the Bhartiya Janata Party, since 2014, not a single communal riot has occurred? This is amazing achievement.


The External Affairs Minister, S. Jaishankar has done India proud at the United Nations and during his visit to Washington. He did not mince words, without flouting diplomacy. I would give him high marks for his stellar performance. One caveat. He is over optimistic about the United States genuinely asserting itself to make India a permanent veto-wielding member of the United Nations Security Council. The brutal reality is that the People’s Republic of China will always exercise its veto to keep India out. If I am not mistaken, President Joe Biden in one of his speeches said that India and Brazil should be Permanent Members of the Security Council.

The reality is somewhat what more complicated. Any expansion of the Council must include a country from Sub-Saharan Africa and the Muslim world. Who from Africa—Nigeria, Ethiopia or South Africa? From the Muslim World the contenders will be Indonesia, Pakistan, Egypt.


The most alarming problem the world is facing is climate change. One has only to look at the havoc rain and hurricanes are playing in Florida, Georgia and South Carolina. In Switzerland, glaciers are melting, in Italy, rivers are drying up. For nature’s fury no easy answers are in sight.

The recent floods in Pakistan have been a calamity. As often happens, the poor have been worst hit. Pakistan was a near bankrupt country. Only the rich Islamic countries can provide funds to rebuild the infrastructure, colleges, schools, hospitals, industries. It’s a long haul.


India, in a few years, will become the most populous country in the world. Yet, no one is seriously talking about it. No talks of birth control, none of population control. Yes, poverty has been vastly eradicated but the quality of life has not improved. Educational standards are low. The legal system needs to be made more efficient. Civil cases go on for decades. We have some of the best doctors in the world but the hospitals are in need of drastic upgradation.

The great Jawaharlal Nehru is to some extent responsible for India becoming an over populated country. Soon after taking over, he made the astounding pronouncement that India was an under populated country. By the time of his death it was on the road leading to over population.

Sharodia Durga Puja

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Durga puja is an important festival in the Shaktism tradition of Hinduism. As per Hindu scriptures, the festival marks the victory of goddess Durga in her battle against the shape-shifting asura, Mahishasura.

It is an annual Hindu event in South Asia that celebrates the adoration of the Hindu goddess Durga. In Bangladesh, it is celebrated broadly. It submits to all the six days of experiential as Mahalaya, Maha Ashtami, Maha Saptami, Shashthi, Maha Navami and Vijayadashami.

History says that the Durga puja has been famous since medieval times. It has urbanized and customized to the world as time approved. A substantial text exists around Durga in the Bengali language and its untimely shapes. The goddess Durga was not completely included into the Hindu pantheon mainly in Bengal. Early forms of Durga festivals were mostly private adoration in personal houses with the use of musical mechanisms such as the mandira, mridanga and smakhya.

Mantras are an essential part of Durga puja. These are accompanied by the musical beatings of the dhak and flowers. These make the environment of Durga puja. Singing of mantras in Sanskrit is a necessary part of the Durga Puja celebration. Durga Slokas commends Durga as a sign of all celestial forces. Along with the sloka, Durga is ubiquitous as the picture of power, aptitude, calm, wealth, ethics etc.

The whole procedure of the formation of the sculptures from the set of clay to the decoration is a holy process, overused by services and other rituals. The people of the Hindu religion are very pious to celebrate this day with respect.

Durga Puja is a public holiday in Bangladesh. It is a day off for the general population, and schools and most businesses are closed.

Bangladesh is a land of holy places and large religious festivals. The festival is a special occasion for Bengali Hindu families to come together from all over the country and celebrate with their relatives and communities.

The five days festival is celebrated with gaiety and grandeur in Bangladesh. Devotees of Goddess Durga offer prayers and seek blessings of the goddess. During the Puja, goddess Lakshmi, Saraswati as well as lord Ganesha and Kartikeya are also worshipped by devotees along with goddess Durga.

Durga calmly understands and counters the evil in order to achieve her solemn goals. Durga, in her various forms, appears as an independent deity in the Epics period of ancient India, that is the centuries around the start of the Common Era. From the medieval period up through present day, the Durga Puja has celebrated the goddess with performing arts and as a social event, while maintaining religious worship.

The festival begins on the first day with Mahalaya, marking Durga’s advent in her battle against evil. Swami Chinmayananda said, “Man, the imperfect, the bound, the sorrowful, has a thousand enemies within. He is riddled with negative thoughts fears, and yearnings. These are selfishness, jealousy, meanness, prejudice and hatred just to mention but a few. The Sadhak must get rid of these lawless villains within. With Mother Durga’s kripa, these destructive masters are to be annihilated. Invoke the Mother Terrible to help us annihilate within ourselves all negative forces; all weaknesses, – all littleness.”

The festival is an old tradition of Hinduism, though it is unclear how and in which century the festival began. Surviving manuscripts from the 14th century provide guidelines for Durga puja, while historical records suggest royalty and wealthy families were sponsoring major Durga Puja public festivities since at least the 16th century. The prominence of Durga Puja increased during the British Raj in its provinces of Bengal and Assam. In the contemporary era, the importance of Durga Puja is as much as a social festival as a religious one wherever it is observed.

This festival is the biggest festival of the Bengali Hindus and is celebrated with great fanfare in Bangladesh.

On each day of this festival, devotees offer flower worship (pushpanjali) and the priest conducts an aroti. At the end of these five days, the idols are immersed in water. As the devotees bid farewell to the Mother Goddess they softly say ‘Aaschebochoraabarhobe’ (We will celebrate your arrival again next year). Like Swami Sivananda, Hindus believe, “Durga (Devi) is synonymous with Shakti or the Divine Power that manifests, sustains and transforms the universe as the one unifying Force of Existence. ‘Shakti is the very possibility of the Absolute’s appearing as many, of God’s causing this universe.

God creates this world through Srishti-Shakti (creative power), preserves through Sthiti-Shakti (preservative power), and destroys through Samhara-Shakti (destructive power). Shakti and Shakta are one; the power and the one who possesses the power cannot be separated; God and Shakti are like fire and heat of fire.”

Even when skies turn to gray, we wishthat the Goddess will bless Hindus way; to give them strength to overcome it all; and achieve all their desires and goals.Let the divine blessings of the Goddess overflow in their life. Durga Puja is an auspicious Hindu festival celebrated across Bangladesh, India and bordering countries. People celebrate this day with great enthusiasm and zeal.

This wonderful spiritual festival, held annually in Bangladesh and elsewhere among the Hindu community in the world. The tenth day, also known as Dashami marks the Visarjan (immersion in water) of the idol with grand celebrations and processions.

Bangladesh Puja Udjapan Parishad and MahanagarSarbajanin Puja Committee have said, “We are respectful to all religions. We are giving the directives to maintain the sanctity of other religions.”

A week prior to the festival, the city gears up and can be seen wearing a look of eagerness and excitement as it prepares itself to welcome the Goddess home.A week before Navratri begins; the idols of Goddess Durga are being painted and made ready except for the eyes. On the occasion of Mahalaya, the Goddess is invited on earth with rituals and so on this day, the eyes are drawn on the idols in an auspicious ritual called ChokkuDaan. It is believed the Goddess descends to earth at the time of drawing the eyes on the idols.

On the sixth day of Navaratri i.e.,the first day of Durga Puja; the beautifully decorated idols are brought home or into magnificently decorated public pandals. The idol is then decorated with flowers, clothes, jewellery, red vermillion and various sweets are kept in front of the Goddess. The idol of the Goddess is accompanied by the idol of Lord Ganesh. Goddess Durga is considered to be Lord Shiva’s wife Parvati’s avatar and thus mother of Lord Ganesh.

The festival of Durga Puja is coloured with devotional zeal, mythological legends, detailed rituals, extravagant pandals and magnificent tableaus of the divine Mother Goddess and her children. The ten-day festivities of Durga Puja provide one and all with a chance to spread festive cheer and wish their loved one’s peace as well as prosperity. The nine different forms of the Goddess of Power, Durga or Shakti, as per the Hindu religion are worshipped during this time.

The last six days of the festival, namely, Mahalaya, Shashthi, Maha Saptami, Maha Ashtami, MahaNabami and Bijoya Dashami are celebrated with great pomp and show. The Durga Puja revelry is not limited to elaborate rituals, but extends to various cultural, music and dance performances given by armature as well as professional artists during this time.

On the final day of Vijayadashmi, the devotees bid teary-eyed farewell to the Goddess and her children as it is believed that they leave for their heavenly abode. Their idols are submerged in the water amidst the resonating sound of drums to symbolise their departure.

May this Durga Puja light up for Hindus in Bangladesh and elsewhere throughout the world!We wish that Goddess Durga empowers them with unmatched happiness, great success and good luck. To conclude, we wish to enunciate a few words of a famed poem: “Nil akashermegherbhela,Padma phulerpapri mela,Dhakertaalekasherkhela,Anandekatuksharadbela. Shubho Durga Puja.” A very Happy Durga Puja to all our brothers and sisters of Hindu community in Bangladesh, Nepal, India, Sri Lanka, and across the world!

-The End –

What two Labour Women MP’s said at the “Labour Party Conference”?

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I quote the report by PA News Agency in today’s National Scot for my readers:

“Labour deputy leader Ms Rayner took aim at the Conservative prime ministers since 2010 during a joke-laden speech to close her party’s conference in Liverpool. In a bid to rally party members, Ms Rayner ran through the policy pledges made in recent days and insisted Labour would be “radical, responsible, realistic” in power.

“By contrast, she described Liz Truss’s new Government as a “ministry of all the talentless”, adding: “When I looked at the benches opposite last week, I thought the clowns had escaped the circus.

“On Mr Johnson, ousted from Number 10 after a series of scandals which included lockdown-busting events in Downing Street, Labour MP Ms Rayner said: “I do owe him one apology.

“I said he couldn’t organise a booze-up in a brewery. Turns out he could organise a booze-up pretty much anywhere, just a shame he couldn’t organise anything else.

“We’re a party with a serious plan, he had a plan for a serious party.

Taking the mickey

“I’ll miss one thing though. As inflation ran out of control, at least his jokes were one thing that got cheaper every week.“But the real problem wasn’t that his jokes were so cheap, it was that his mistakes were so expensive.

“He ended his time claiming he was forced from office by the ‘deep state’. The only deep state that forced him from office was the one he left our country in.

“Sorry conference, I had to use all my Boris lines now while he’s still remembered and while everyone knows who he is before he becomes a footnote of failure in the history books. “At least that’s what the new Prime Minister must be hoping for because he’ll be sat on the backbenches plotting his comeback, with a glint in his eye, thinking: ‘I wasn’t so bad after all was I?’

“What a sorry state of affairs.”

Ms Rayner earlier mocked Ms Truss for having “crashed the pork market”, a nod to the Prime Minister’s enthusiasm for the sector when environment secretary.

She said of the Conservatives: “Tough on crime? They brought crime to Number 10. “Defenders of the free market? The market’s in free-fall. England’s green and pleasant land? Frack it. From the party of stability to causing earthquakes. From the party of business to a slap down from the IMF. From the party of serious government to the party of parties. “Liz Truss has even crashed the pork market. Now that is a disgrace. You’d think that snouts in the trough was the one thing they could manage.”

Labour’s conference concluded with renditions of The Red Flag and Jerusalem, with Ms Rayner and Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer joining in” –unquote.

A hilarious event, it could happen only in England?

Whilst the above enthralled the Labour Conference at Liverpool, I call it another hilarious incident, that took place at a Fringe Labour Event entitled: “What’s next for Labour’s Agenda for Race,” on Monday 26 September 2022.

Ms RupaHaq, Labour M.P for Ealing Central and Acton, of Asian origin, while addressing this Fringe event was quoted by The Guardian, to have said,(about, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Rt.Hon. Kwasi Kwarteng,) “he is superficial, he is a Blackman, but again he’s got more in common – he went to Eton.”

Ms Haq has since apologised direct to the Chancellor, but it has opened up a hornet’s nest. She has been suspended from the Labour Party Whip in the Commons.

Responding to the controversy, MP Haq is also reported to have told “The Guardian”: her comments were made while praising the recent ethnic diversity in Parliament. She is quoted to have commented: “Obviously, I know you can be brown and be a Tory – I’m not that stupid”.

We know there are occasions when coloured people become the scapegoat for racist remarks. Taking the mickey on native English is acceptable, but “taking the mickey, on others, is sacrosanct.”

What has happened to the British Pound?

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“Working people are paying the price of the Tory government’s casino economics. Labour will cut bills, create jobs and secure energy independence for Britain by 2030.”  ~ Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer in response to the chancellor’s mini-Budget.

When I came to Britain in 1966, the pound bought me US Dollars 2.40 and today it is at a record low against the Green Back, as early trading in markets in South East Asia, collapsed the Pound to $1.0327, the lowest since decimalisation in 1971. Luckily it regained ground to $1.07. What really happened after Black Friday? (23 September 2022).

Markets are volatile and naturally, they seem to have taken fright after what our new Chancellor of the Exchequer, Rt. Hon. KwasiKwarteng stated at the weekend that he was ready to slash taxes even further, more than the £45 Billion cuts in his Mini Budget on Friday.

Speculation was growing that the Bank of England Monetary Policy Committee might have to intervene with an emergency rate hike, sooner than expected.

Need I say, if Sterling Pound falls to parity with the US Dollar, it could trigger a rebellion among Tory backbenchers who could refuse to vote for the Government’s Finance Bill, or even submit letters of no confidence in PM Liz Truss, said the Daily Telegraph.

Labour Opposition at Party Conference in Liverpool

The Labour Party at its Annual Party Conference in Liverpool, with Parliament in recess, accused the Chancellor of “fanning the flames” of the crisis and calling the City’s regulator to investigate leaks in his Mini Budget.

Labour has challenged the “Growth Plan” in the Mini Budget. The fallout has given Labour a well-timed opportunity to lay out an alternative economic plan at its party Conference but does not want to divulge its plans, in advance of a General Election planned for 2024.

Can Labour win the next General Election?

After 12 years of Conservative Government, the public is asking this question. As it stands today according to a poll Labour is on course for a sizeable majority whenever the next General Election is called. It is increasing looking like a “Government-in-waiting,”  unless it spoils its chances.

Polls give it today a 12 point lead over the Conservatives, which would land them a comfortable Parliamentary majority, estimated at 56 seats.

What the Pound record low means for UK?

We know a consideration and delivery of measures announced in the Mini Budget will, however, create new opportunities for an innovative start-up and will help unlock private investment.

The Mini Budget announcement has envisaged an economic growth goal of 2.5 percent, before the next General election.

A Tory Grandee says the current crisis will pass. Some others have been scathing in their views. Still, others have urged colleagues to be patient and not panic.

In my view, it is like Boris, the British will always rise to the occasion, which is a trait I have learned in England.

In my view, a decrease in the wholesale price of gas will over winter make a big difference.

People cannot only be bought over with “tax cuts”?

Innovation is the mantra which is built up from a foundation of ideas and knowledge, which the Conservatives have acquired over the past 12 years in Government. This experience is priceless.

But at the same time, a weak Pound will no doubt fuel the cost of imports depending on the cost of living crisis. The Governor of the Bank of England has ruled out any emergency increase in the Bank Rate in the immediate future. That’s “cool” in the colloquial.

How the Conservatives want to play their cards when Parliament reopens will to a large extent determine the outcome of the crisis?

Energy Security and Zero Emission Target in India

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India presently imports around 80% of its crude oil requirement and around 50% of its natural gas requirements. As the domestic production of crude oil and natural gas are virtually stagnant and the domestic demand is increasing at around 7% per annum, India’s steadily increasing dependence on import of the vital energy source is a matter of high energy security concern.  This is particularly so since the price of crude oil and natural gas are considerably fluctuating/increasing in the global market due to geo-political factors, which are beyond the control of India.

 India has promised to achieve zero emission by the year 2070, which means that the level of emission has to start declining at a slow and steady rate from now onwards.

It is now well recognized that global emission is caused largely due to use of coal as fuel and   natural gas as fuel and feedstock. While burning of coal as fuel cause emission of global warming carbon dioxide gas and sulphur dioxide gas, the storage and transportation of natural gas cause methane emission.

India has to simultaneously tackle energy security issues and also has to reduce the emission level at same time. Is this possible in the present circumstances?  Are the strategies being adopted to tackle these two issues contradictory?

Limitation of the strategies:

The strategies for India to reduce emission and import dependence on crude oil consist of blending ethanol with petrol, promotion of electric vehicles, increase in renewable energy generation as well as promotion of hydrogen as fuel and feedstock.

In the case of renewable energy, a total of 144 GW capacity excluding hydro power has been installed as of June,2022. Besides, renewable energy projects of 60. 66 GW capacity are under various stage of implementation and 23.14 GW capacity are under bidding.  While the progress is laudable, the fact is that the impact of renewable energy project in reducing crude oil import dependence would not be significant, since renewable energy generation is seasonal and climate dependent and the capacity utilization of renewable energy project is only at around 20%.

In the case of electric vehicle, Government of India aims at ensuring that 30% of all new vehicles are electric by 2030. While good progress is being made and electric vehicles can reduce emission, it should not be nullified by using electric power for charging batteries if the power were to be generated by burning coal, which is a fossil fuel generating emission.  There is no way that the power requirement of electric vehicle would be completely provided by renewable energy in the foreseeable future.

Government of India has fixed 20% target to blend ethanol with petrol by 2025 and good progress are being made to boost ethanol production. However, this would make short supply of ethanol for other industrial purposes, as ethanol is an important feedstock for chemical industry. Further, it is estimated that 20% ethanol blending with petrol would result in 70 million tonne of greenhouse gas emission, due to physical transportation of 1016 crore litre of ethanol per year by trucks using petroleum fuel.

In the case of hydrogen energy, renewable hydrogen industry is still in development stage across the world. Impressive progress is being made in utilizing hydrogen abroad like hydrogen fuel based railway project costing Rs. 737 crore implemented in Germany. However, as of now, such hydrogen used is not   green hydrogen. In India too, hydrogen fuel cell vehicle plants have been announced including one at Chennai.  However, these projects would use blue hydrogen or grey hydrogen and not green hydrogen produced using renewable energy.

Obviously, the above strategies which are progressive, would be totally insufficient to reduce India’s import dependence of crude oil and natural gas to any significant level in the foreseeable future.

Dependence on coal:

While government of India is implementing the above strategies, it is also increasing the production of coal, which is a fossil fuel.

To increase the production of coal to around 1000 million tonne per annum from the present level of 700 million tonne per annum, Government of India has now auctioned 10 coal mines for commercial exploitation.

Obviously, boosting coal production and greater use of coal as fuel to reduce import dependence on crude oil, will cause emissions and obviously, this would nullify the   emission reduction strategies of Government of India.  This appears to be a contradictory policy.

Need for new strategies:

In recent months, when global crude oil price has steeply increased, Government of India somehow managed the situation by buying crude oil from Russia at a discounted price.  However, this strategy can essentially be a short-term measure.

In such circumstances, apart from the strategies adopted already, India has to think about more imaginative solutions which could be the following.

Promotion of algae crop and algae biofuel for which the requirements such as tropical conditions, availability of wasteland, requirement of sunshine and carbon dioxide etc. in India provide an ideal situation for promoting algae crop/biofuel.

India imports around 2.2 million tonne of methanol per annum, as India does not have competitively priced natural gas which is the feedstock for methanol production. Commercial plants are operating abroad for the production of methanol from municipal solid waste. India should have no hesitation in exploiting this methanol investment opportunity from municipal solid waste.

From methanol, dimethyl ether can be produced, which is an eco-friendly fuel that can replace petroleum-based LPG in a big way.

Further, it is necessary to boost domestic production of ethanol to meet increasing percentage of ethanol blending with petrol. For this, ethanol production from beet sugar should also be promoted in India in a big way as ethanol from beet sugar has even more advantages than ethanol from sugarcane as it is less water consumption.

Education for a living?

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566 views
3 mins read

The current western type of education was brought to Ceylon (Sri Lanka) by the American and later British missionaries who setup schools and colleges, particularly in the North and East and other parts of the island. Tamils benefitted from these educational charitable institutions, which catered to a well-rounded education, with emphasis on the spoken and written skills of the English Language, enabling students to sit for Cambridge Matriculation English examinations. Sinhalese and Tamils and became very fluent in the English spoken idiom, excelling in work opportunities both in Government service and private Enterprise. We were the best in the English Language in South Asia.

When Ceylon got its independence 74 years ago in 1948, as part of the Free School Education, the majority of governments which followed, every attempt was to encourage “swabasha” languages, Sinhala and Tamil. The architect of Free Education was the then Minister of Education, Hon. C.W.W. Kannagara, an ardent champion of, Anagarika Dharmapala, the first global Buddhist missionary. Anagarika was one of founding contributors of the then non-violent Buddhist nationalism and a leading figure in Sri Lankan independence.

Simultaneously, Swami Vivekananda promoted Tamil language schools, giving impetus for Swabasha education. It was originally not thought of as a replacement for the English system of education, but soon became a channel of new thinking in education, after independence.

All Schools were nationalised in 1961 and education was politicised. To cope with the cry for more nationalism, the Government of Prime Minister, S.W.R.D. Bandaranaike brought in “the policy of Standardisation” in 1977, to limit the Tamil students entering universities in Peradeniya and later Colombo.

Fast forward to 2022 – Education has become the bone of contention for jobs

All students Sinhala and Tamil were to compete for an educational qualification in the “swabasha” to obtain jobs. English learning was downgraded as a “colonial legacy”?

The “lingua franca” – the language of the world commence – English was classed as a second language. The ability to use English in schools, both in verbal communication, the spoken and the written language, was further abandoned.

Then came the fallacy of swabasha up to secondary education and English medium for University Classes.

With the Government nationalised education, payment of Teachers’ salaries together with other ancillary staff and the maintenance of all government schools was politicised. The Ministry of Education and Examinations Office conducted three public streams of education. They were University Entrance and Scholarship Exams, and “O” Ordinary Level, “A” Advanced Level exams.

Educational Scholarship

With this development passing of examinations was “the be-all and end all” of education. Accompaniment to this form of knowledge was the “Cram Shops” or Tuition Centres which mushroomed, not only in Tamil but also in Sinhala School areas.

This system of “fattening students for the market” was to cater for jobs. Tuition in students’ weak subjects was big business all over Sri Lanka.

The School Curriculums were geared to supplementary education, which was to be provided by paid education at all Tuition Centres in and around the country. Tuition was not only part and parcel of learning, but compulsory form of education in Sri Lanka.

Students from a very early age were weaned on Tuition. Government-employed Teachers in Schools around the country had a lucrative after-school hours assignment, coaching their own students at Tuition Centres. Students were taught the rudiments of education in school class time and literally nurtured to attend after-hours Tuition Centre Education to supplement the knowledge of a subject like Maths, or Science or Language, all in the name of “getting through the examination”. 

Education in Sri Lanka created a class of “coached students” to pass examinations, not for acquiring skills for a vocation or further study.

Small wonder, there are all half-baked, half-educated, unable to compete in the “world of work,” running away from the country to shores abroad to hide themselves from their peers at home, to do menial jobs, just to earn a crust and send money home.

A shameful experience called Education in Sri Lanka  

Parents are sacrificing themselves to pay tuition fees, which are escalating depending on the area of competence of subjects for tuition. Teachers in their schools are creaming the hard-earned money of parents, forcing their students to attend their tuition.

Without Tuition Centre training, schools too are unable to maintain and produce the pass rates in their schools, for government support.

Up to the early Nineteen Seventies (1970’s) a noticeable feature of Government and Government funded schools in Sri Lanka, there were very few Tuition Masters, Tuition Centres giving private lessons to students around the country. Education in Sri Lanka today is Tuition Centred Education.

The quality and competence of Teachers in Government Schools

Arguably, there is a dearth of properly oriented and trained teachers in Sri Lanka today. Teaching was a vocation some sixty-odd years ago. Today Teacher Training comprises rote learning, and teachers over these many years have become “the fat cats of Sri Lanka, creaming off hard earned

and scarce resources of parents, who have blighted students under their care for long hours of attendance at Tuition Centres all around the country. Millennium Generation Students of Sri Lanka, seem to be “burnt out” attending multi-faceted Tuition Centres all around the land. The curriculum of Teacher Training Institutes should be closely monitored by a staff of trained Inspectors. Teaching should once again be made a vocation, rather than a lucrative way of supplementing teachers’ wages. 

What needs to be done to bring education back to its pristine status? 

There are five top strengths that employers look for in a rounded education.

Oral and communication skills in English

Critical Thinking and problem solving

Teamwork and collaboration

Professionalism and a strong work ethic

Leadership

United Kingdom: Legal Basis for The Constitutional Monarchy

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822 views
4 mins read

Do not be fooled by constitutional theories (the ‘paper  description’)  and  formal  institutional  continuities  (‘connected  outward  sameness’)  – concentrate  instead  on  the  real  centres  of  power  and  the  practical  working  of  the  political system (‘living reality’).  Walter Bagehot (1867)

This article commences with profound appreciation of Her Majesty the late Queen Elizabeth II and her service to the Nation and concludes with every good wish for the reign of His Majesty King Charles III.

At this turning point in the history of the United Kingdom the most fundamental truth and point of clarity is that the King reigns (as head of nation) but does not rule.  This legal profundity is founded on the philosophy of John Locke ( 1632-1704) who propounded the concept of the “Moderate Monarchy” – a new political idea – that infused certain limitations of power on the Monarchy based on the principle that laws should be enacted for the common good of the citizenry.  Having introduced this approach,  Locke advocated residual powers for the sovereign, ascribing discretion to the sovereign to change or amend laws – again for the common good -a practice  now known as the Royal Prerogative. 

It is the Parliament that rules and the King is obliged to follow the advice of Parliament. The King has meetings once a month with his Privy Council – his advisory body – and approves Orders in Council that emanate from the consultations with and advice of The Privy Council.  The King also performs, with the advice of the Parliament,  several key functions such as appointing the Prime Minister and senior judges and  receiving  incoming and outgoing ambassadors. The King also signs State papers which he receives daily and conducts weekly meetings with his Prime Minister as well as other meetings regularly  with senior officials.

Additionally, the Monarch can declare war and peace; sign treaties; dissolve Parliament; confer peerages and knighthoods.

In 1689 co-rulers of England King William III and Queen Mary II signed into law the English Bill of Rights.  For the first time in English history the bill adumbrated explicit constitutional and civic rights and it is believed by many that it was the genesis of the constitutional Monarchy (where the monarch’s discretion is limited) and Parliamentary power over the Monarchy. Arguably, The English Bill of Rights greatly influenced the draughtsmen of the U.S. Bill of Rights. The English Bill of Rights came into being after the ouster of King James II who was largely considered autocratic and was subsequently ousted.  Ineluctably therefore the document identified the misdeeds of James II.  The English Bill of Rights clearly ascribed to the king or queen the exalted position of head of State but circumscribed some of his or her powers which were considered as limited by law. Some of the rights contained and embodied in The English  Bill of Rights were: freedom to elect members of Parliament, without the king or queen’s interference; freedom of speech in Parliament; freedom from royal interference with the law; freedom to petition the king; freedom to bear arms for self-defence; freedom from cruel and unusual punishment and excessive bail; freedom from taxation by royal prerogative, without the agreement of Parliament; freedom of fines and forfeitures without a trial; freedom from armies being raised during peacetimes. The English  Bill of Rights also prohibited Catholics from becoming the Monarch and required that Parliament be convened regularly.

The Monarchy was obligated to rule under the consent of Parliament, with the recognition that the people had individual rights. Therefore, it would not be incorrect to say that in the  British constitutional Monarchy, the king (or queen)  plays a largely ceremonial role. However, the monarch stands out as the symbol and inspiration of national unity and earns the respect of the local and international community as an apolitical figure.  The famous former editor of The Economist Walter Bagehot described the monarch as the “dignified part of the Constitution”.

At law, there can be no civil or criminal proceedings against the sovereign. It’s par for the course that this exemption notwithstanding, the King or Queen (as the case may be) is careful to act within the bounds of law and tradition. The genesis of this tradition arguably lies in The Magna Carta Liberatum (Great Charter) signed between King John and a group of barons in 1215 laying out the freedoms of individuals.  The document was composed of 63 Articles, one of which said the king must follow the law and could not simply rule as he wished. The Magna Carta stands as the monument of the constitutional history of England.

One of the legacies, and indeed a blessing of the Moderate Monarchy as espoused by John Locke is that between the Monarchy and parliament, these two institutions effectively preclude the infestation of insidious and invidious autocracies in the community. A corollary to the harmonious blending of the two institutions is The Rule of Law.  One of the most significant features of the majesty of the law as the queen of humanities is the elegance of the Rule of Law as the foundation of humanity.  The Rule of Law is the hallmark of democracy.  Regrettably, at the present time, the aspirations people had of equal rights and representation by the people of the people for the people have gradually  eroded into a quagmire of ambivalent populism that is shrouded in mendacious and self-serving casuistry. A whole new phenomenon called illiberal democracy has been identified by the intelligentsia as a definition of this  phenomenon. The hallmark of illiberal democracy is the ignoring by those democratically elected by the people – in many instances those that have been re-elected or reaffirmed through referenda – of constitutional limits on their power, thereby depriving their citizens of basic rights and freedom.

The Rule of Law, which is entrenched in the unwritten British Constitution reflects the quintessence of Constitutional Monarchy. To this end Lard Bingham has attempted a definition of the Rule of Law thus: “all individuals and organizations within the State, whether public or private, are bound by, and entitled to the benefit of laws prospectively promulgated and publicly administered in the courts”.  This definition can be expanded to several corollaries. Laws should be intelligible.  They should not be couched in a plethora of pages in convoluted language and expanded to hundreds of regulations.  Nor should they be orally delivered  through speeches and pronouncements.  Any written amendment to a law should be brought to the attention of the people.  A society should be governed by law and not by discretion granted to or assumed by public officials.  Additionally, they should be equally applied.  To expand further, laws should not favour a particular category of individual.  Past examples are the depravity of slavery, servanthood  and the arbitrarily perceived  inferiority of women in some jurisdictions.

It can be argued that the sustenance of the modern-day British Monarchy and its dignified relationship with the Parliament would continue to ac as a buffer against populism, illiberalism, and autocracy.