|Tuesday, 10 February 2004|
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Heartening peace pledge
Posts and Communications Minister D. M. Jayaratne has in a timely and forthrightly manner put the record straight on a number of issues which have been triggering public puzzlement over the past few days.
While "whither the peace process?" has been prime among these issues, Minister Jayaratne has answered this query by placing on record that the SLFP-JVP alliance, while not resorting to war, is for the protection of the rights of all ethnic groups.
Naturally, such rights would include the political, social and cultural rights of all our communities. Implied in this position is a willingness to negotiate a political solution to the ethnic conflict, which is undoubtedly the biggest hurdle to national progress and prosperity. In other words, a commitment is being made to perpetuate the stalled peace process, which still contains the potential to relieve this country of its burden of suffering.
Besides, while highlighting the multiplying security risks which went unaddressed over the past couple of years, the Minister reiterates that there would be no question of the alliance getting back to war with the LTTE. We are happy that this issue is being faced squarely because the consensus among the majority of the people is that the ethnic conflict should be resolved by peaceful means. In fact, the generality of the public has come to profoundly appreciate this no - war climate which has seen an end to bloodshed on the North-East frontier.
The corollary of this anti-war pledge is that the alliance would need to sustain this peace climate while negotiating peace with the Tigers.
It would particularly need to undermine the sinister agendas of war mongers and other elements who could be expected to be on the look out to shatter ethnic peace and internal harmony. The need is also great to lay the basis for cultural and religious harmony which has been the target of religious begots and extremists. Swift, concerted action to bring these groups to heel, would do the alliance immense good and go a great way to project it as an upholder of ethnic peace.
Minister Jayaratne also pointed to efforts by the Government to barter away national assets for petty pecuniary benefits. We strongly urge that the "family silver" be saved and public enterprises revived for meeting public needs. We do not think that Xenophobia should be encouraged in the public mind about "foreigners" who visit this land but every effort must be made to regularise land sales and bring them under firm, governmental control.
Economic liberalization should not imply the unsupervised and unregulated proliferation of economic enterprises through the indiscreet injection of Foreign Direct Investment. On the contrary, such an economic regime should be subjected to the national interest.
Cleansing of public life, which has also been touched on, involves the activation of all dormant State sector institutions which are charged with curbing corruption in high and low places. We urge that all wrong-doers be brought to book, whoever they may be.
Science in the Third World
The conclusion reached last week by a group of international academics that poor nations risk falling farther and farther behind their industrialised counterparts in terms of science and technology should be an eye-opener to the developing world.
The InterAcademy Council said in a report to the United Nations that the inability of most poor countries to keep up with rapid technological change indicated the improper implementation of current models of technology transfer. The report noted that enhancing science and technology in developing countries is truly a necessity.
The vast gap between the technological capacities of rich and poor countries is most discernible in the Information Technology sector. Nearly half of the world's people have never made a telephone call or seen a computer. Internet access is available only to a limited number of households in the developing world.
Developed countries have cutting-edge facilities for scientific research, which most Third World countries simply cannot afford. They can redress this imbalance by inviting scientists from developing countries to conduct research at these facilities and to participate in international scientific fora.
Many developed countries are reluctant to transfer certain technologies to developing countries, fearing their interception by rogue regimes and unlawful groups. A technology transfer mechanism that allays these fears should be formulated by the international scientific community. There have also been attempts by companies in developed nations to "hijack" products and technologies from the Third World. Such attempts must be resisted by developing nations.
Developing countries can make a start by analysing their school curricula, which emphasise theoretical subjects at the expense of practical science. Students should be guided on practical aspects of science with a view to moulding future scientists and engineers.
Most developing countries spend less than one per cent of the GDP on science. They should spend more on science and provide all facilities to the scientists. The exodus of Third World scientists to greener pastures abroad must be curbed by giving them financial incentives to continue research at home.
Rewarding inventors is equally important. After all, even a minor invention or discovery could be a breakthrough that benefits the whole world.
Produced by Lake House