"There has never been a dead horse with such a
vicious kick."— Arthur Koestler, The Ghost in the Machine
Rohan Pethiyagoda’s response (Sunday Island,
19 June 2005) to the Academy’s concerns on the (US) TFCA (Sunday
Island, 12 June) is essentially a damp squib.
How does Mr. Pethiyagoda know that the US offer
to Sri Lanka on the TFCA lapsed over an year ago? With the sort
of self-assurance coming from a smoke-filled room, he says
simply it has. If so, no one told us.
He says we are therefore flogging a dead horse.
Unfortunately, dead horses have a way of resurrecting: witness
the recent, brave sequel, Eppawala Rides Again.
Mr. Pethiyagoda himself flogs two dead or
moribund horses in his response.
The document from the Academy’s Council, which I
mediated, carefully set the parameters for the explication of
our concerns. If a blazoning forth in the title and the
sub-titles does not register, even a pedestrian reading of
simple English would show beyond doubt that the document was
addressing the issue of the TFCA, the whole TFCA, and nothing
but the TFCA.
Mr. Pethiyagoda dusts our very real concerns
about the TFCA off his hands 3("tempting as it is," he says, "to
draw attention to the wealth of misinformation, speculation and
fantasy" therein), and goes wandering off into a welter of
speculation and fantasy of his own. He expresses shock, and
misinterprets our opposition to any non-governmental
organization serving on the administrative body of a
foreign-funded project, as applying to projects involving NGO
assistance and foreign funds given, firstly, for our compatriots
ravaged and pauperized by the tsunami and, secondly, for saving
Sri Lanka’s threatened species and biodiversity. This is classic
non sequitur. This is where he flogs a totally dead horse.
Our opposition is only with regard to NGOs
serving on, as we say, "administrative bodies of this sort", to
wit those governing a national resource, in this case Sri
Lanka’s state forests. We are opposing the provisions in Section
809 of the TFCA. Surely this is quite clear? By not seeing this,
and by attempting to divert the attention of readers away from
where we focus it, namely the TFCA’s Section 809, and
re-focusing on the foreign and local assistance that everyone
knows our country stands in desperate need of, Mr. Pethiyagoda
disdains both our intelligence and our humanity, and lays some
of his own attributes open to disdain in the process.
We know we have excellent laws in this country;
if we fail, it is in their implementation. As Mr. Pethiyagoda
seems also to recognize, laws are in place for protecting our
forests; it is in managing them that we tend to fall short.
Mr. Pethiyagoda makes a necessarily very limited
but useful catalogue of what is wrong with the wild and the wet
in this country, but then goes off the mark somewhat and
belabours the Academy for not "addressing such complex and
pressing problems", and not seeking "to integrate science into
Here he is flogging another horse, the Academy.
Some might say that it is dead or moribund; some might say that
it is rearing to go. Many of us of course subscribe to the
latter view. We have recently been inviting Fellows, in our web
page and elsewhere, to volunteer to get more directly involved
in giving ideas, initiating activities and coming together for
the nation’s good. I do not recall seeing Mr. Pethiyagoda’s name
among the respondents, or in workshop attendance lists.
That notwithstanding, Mr. Pethiyagoda seems
pleased that he is a Fellow of our Academy, because he makes
known that important fact in the opening sentence of his
article. Will he then not descend from Mount Olympus and join us
ordinary Fellows in attempting to integrate science into
national life and development?