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A cardinal prophecy

a year ago

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For all intents and purposes, Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith has generally been seen as a controversial figure by his own Catholic flock, especially in the run-up to the last presidential election. The reason behind it being the Cardinal’s perceived partiality towards a particular political entity. Even though Cardinal Ranjith did not appear to support any particular candidate in a tangible sense, his constant ridiculing of the then administration was more than enough to get tongues wagging. The main motivation for the outspoken Cardinal to embark on such a course appeared to be his anger at that administration’s apparent failure to prevent the Easter Sunday massacre. The Catholic community, reeling from the attack, found nothing wrong in that. Now, just a couple of weeks shy of completing two years since that election and the resultant change of regime, the Cardinal is once again in the spotlight for similar reasons. The reluctance and inaction of the incumbent regime to actively pursue the masterminds behind the sordid saga has earned the ire of the Cardinal, who has been patiently marking time for some sort of result to be shown with regard to the investigations. To rub salt on the wounds, the administration ignored his persistent requests for a copy of the full report of the Presidential Commission of Inquiry, providing only the first of 20-odd volumes of the final report, that too, after repeated requests. Besides, no action has yet been taken to implement any of the recommendations either, despite constant calls to do so by the Cardinal himself. Therefore, the general sense of frustration, hopelessness, and anger is becoming palpable by the day, and the Cardinal is only giving vent to the general feeling among his flock. His  assertion last week, that those who have blood on their hands will not be able to govern for long, is a manifestation of that frustration and clearest sign yet that patience is running thin, if not finally run out. Last week, 21 October to be precise, marked 30 months since the attacks, and today, we are no closer to identifying the masterminds behind said attacks that not only destroyed the delicate fabric of ethnic harmony woven between communities since the end of the war, but also one of the country’s main income earners, the tourism industry. The calls to identify, arrest, and prosecute those responsible have largely fallen on deaf ears, which has understandably irked not only the Cardinal but all peace-loving and law-abiding citizens, including the great majority of the Buddhist clergy, who have steadfastly stood in solidarity with the Cardinal and the Catholic community. The Cardinal’s public assertion last week that the “wrath of the heavens will come upon those who have ascended to power over the blood of innocent souls, and thereby no good will happen to them”, and by extension to the country, appears to be consistent with what seems to be taking place, with the country limping from one crisis to another and no sign of light at the end of the tunnel. As for the administration, despite its well-known reliance on the stars for succour, luck seems to be in short supply. So much so that it has now become a matter of routine for it to blame each and every one of its problems on the pandemic. Be it the state of the economy, cost of living, food shortages, increasing gas and petroleum prices, fertiliser and farmers’ issues, teachers’ salary issue, forex issues, dollar crunch, etc.; these are all apparently side effects of the pandemic. Needless to say, the pandemic affected our neighbourhood in Asia quite hard, but other nations have risen to the challenge and not only succeeded in mitigating the health crisis brought about by the pandemic, but also the attendant financial crisis, to the extent that neighbour India, which was among the hardest hit by the pandemic, is now planning to financially compensate the next of kin of every Covid victim to the tune of around Rs. 140,000 per lost soul. India’s neighbours Bangladesh and Pakistan have both succeeded in steadily building their reserves and are likely to register significant GDP growth this year. India’s unprecedented move, while providing financial relief for the next of kin, more importantly serves as an admission of the State’s culpability in the failure to prevent those deaths. It may be recalled that when India was experiencing a peak in cases, Sri Lanka was offering itself as a quarantine destination and it is the very same Indian variant of the virus, now identified as the Delta variant, that has been singularly responsible for the surge in our number of cases and subsequent deaths, now at over 13,500. While the Narendra Modi administration has thought it fit to atone for its perceived failures, it is unlikely that the conscience of Mother India will have any bearing on the administration of its island neighbour, which has so far not only let victims fend for themselves, but made things difficult for everyone due to the unbearable cost of living. On the subject of compensation, the Government already has its hands full following its assurance to the farming community to make good the losses they suffer as a result of the switch to organic fertiliser. A deficit in local food production would mean a higher import bill in addition to losses endured due to the loss of export crops. Now, five months after that tectonic shift in agricultural practice, the results are beginning to show, with farmlands that earlier bore bountiful harvests transforming into wilted and barren fields; barren fields mean empty pockets for the thousands of farmers who depend on them for their livelihoods, which, in turn, support the rural economy. The absence of an alternative, such as a 50-50 organic-chemical formula to at least keep the farms and the farmers afloat until such time that arrangements are in place for full implementation of the “organic only” formula, has pushed not only farmers to the brink but also the country’s food supply chain. One can only hope that even at this late stage, sanity will prevail, and farmers will be provided the necessary resources to cultivate their lands in the Maha season that has already begun with the change in seasonal weather patterns. The Government should find comfort in the fact that no one in the country, in principle, is opposed to the concept of organic farming. The issue that has cropped up is with regard to the manner in which the policy is being implemented. The panacea that has manifested in the form of the Indian-manufactured nano organic fertiliser, airlifted to boot, is a misnomer at best, with the country’s academia collectively dismissing it as a chemical product. The Government’s policy document “Vistas of Prosperity and Splendour” clearly states that the switch to organic cultivation will be systematically and methodically implemented over a period of 10 years, which, according to experts in the field, is the bare minimum required for such a radical transition. It is not something that can be done by flipping a switch, which appears to be what the Government expects of the country’s agricultural sector. For a switch to operate, there should be power running through it. That power, in this instance, should be in the shape and form of an interim formula. In the absence of such a formula, the switch becomes redundant, and could potentially lead to tripping the entire circuit. If and when that were to happen, it would certainly look like fulfilment of the Cardinal’s prophecy of karmic forces at work.