|Monday, 2 February 2004|
Please forward your comments to the Editor, Daily News.
Email : email@example.com
Snail mail : Daily News, 35, D.R. Wijewardene Mawatha, Colombo, Sri Lanka.
Telephone : 94 11 2429429 / 94 11 2421181
Fax : 94 11 2429210
How national security was compromised
Eternal vigilance, while being the price of liberty is also the guarantee of a people's security. If these tenets were strictly adhered to, the charges which are currently being levelled at the Ceasefire Agreement would be without foundation.
However, the perception has gained ground steadily that the security of the land has been consistently compromised, although the ceasefire is continuing to hold and no more "coffins" are coming to poor Southern homesteads from the dug-outs or trenches of the North.
While our hope is that the peace process would move vibrantly forward, it cannot be allowed to do so with its current limitations and deficiencies remaining unrectified.
President Kumaratunga, as we all know, has been a staunch champion of ethnic peace and has in fact been the chief initiator of a just peace in Sri Lanka. However as Head of State she has always been compelled to protect and uphold national security.
While she has allowed the peace process to continue she has found it advisable to make timely interventions to jolt the Government back to its senses when national security has been jeopardized by the Government's weak-kneed approach to implementing the ceasefire or when perceived, gross irregularities on the part of the LTTE have gone unrectified.
In fact it's the multiplication of such irregularities and anomalies which compelled the President to take over the Defence Ministry.
What are some of these threats to national security and internal peace which compelled the President to exercise her Constitutional Right as the ultimate protector of the country's security and internal stability?
One is the inability on the part of the Government to curb LTTE arms smuggling into the country, particularly on the high seas. Second, is the neglect of Colombo's security and third, the compromising of Trincomalee's security.
It was in connection with the latter aspect that a report submitted by the US Pacific Command Assessment Team said, among other things, that: "Currently the LTTE controls the Southern portion of the harbour.
From this area the LTTE have effectively monitored all ship movements in and out of the harbour and can launch suicide and artillery attacks against the naval base and could potentially destroy and vessel coming in and out of harbour..."
Third, the security situation in the Eastern Province has been allowed to deteriorate, inclusive of the inability to protect Muslim interests. Fourthly, the task of beefing-up of the armed forces has been neglected.
These are a very few valid reasons which led to the take-over of the Defence Ministry. Obviously, no forward movement in the peace process could be envisaged without the rectification of these deficiencies, for which the President's cooperation is needed and her objections given ear to.
Rather than urge an "all or nothing" approach with regard to Defence, we call on the Government to work in collaboration with the President.
A precious resource
The line 'Water, water everywhere, but not a drop to drink', seems to summarise the precarious situation faced by a vast section of the global population. With inland waterways occupying only a miniscule percentage of the planet's surface, gaining access to pure water has become a major problem especially in developing regions.
International organisations such as the United Nations and the Asian Development Bank (ADB) have realised the importance of formulating programmes that address these concerns.
The ADB concluded its Third Water Week recently, giving a ray of hope to the poor that getting pure water is not a dream anymore. More than 350 experts in the water sector across the Asia-Pacific regions attended the Week held in Manila from January 26 to 30.
They are now setting practical goals and priorities for providing better water access to the poor.
Such action is urgently required, given that one-third of Asia-Pacific residents do not have access to safe drinking water. One in two people lack basic sanitation facilities.
The year-round availability of water for irrigation and agriculture is another crucial factor, since Asia's main crop, rice, depends heavily on water. Long droughts and neglected irrigation networks often spell disaster for the region's impoverished farmers.
Sri Lanka itself is facing a similar situation: The drought is expected to continue almost until mid-year, putting an enormous strain on the country's limited water resources. Reservoirs used for supplying drinking water and generating electricity are drying up.
Water cuts have already been imposed. Power-cuts may be required if water levels at hydropower reservoirs decrease further and if thermal generators alone cannot cope with the demand.
There are other factors that aggravate the crisis. Industries and residents discharge effluents to rivers and lakes, rendering them unsuitable as sources of drinking water.
Some roadside taps are kept turned on for hours. These excesses should be curbed in order to conserve our precious water resources.
Developed nations must help their developing counterparts to acquire modern technologies such as desalination and wastewater recycling plants.
North-South cooperation is vital to ensure that future generations are not deprived of the key ingredient of mankind's survival.
Produced by Lake House