An Echelon Media Company
Sunday February 25th, 2024

Sacked Sri Lanka scientist rejects ad hominem attack as fertilizer warning materialize

ECONOMYNEXT – A top Sri Lanka agricultural scientist who was sacked for publicly raising concerns over agrochemical ban said he had worked for the private sector due to his technical knowledge and he had never influenced the government on behalf of the private firm.

Professor Buddhi Marambe, 59, was sacked from all his government positions including the top advisor on agriculture after his criticism of the agro-chemical ban.

Ad Hominem?

Agriculture Minister Mahindanada Aluthgamage said Marambe was sacked due to a conflict of interest in his role as warnings of most experts over the sudden shift into organic fertilizer materialized.

“He has been raising his criticism of almost all the government policies including nano nitrogen,” Aluthgamage told reporters.

“Meantime I got complaints from a number of environmental organizations saying that he had served as a director of a chemical fertilizer company.

“Also there was a letter to me with information that he had worked against glyphosate ban by the Maithripala Sirisena government and as a consultant of private companies.”

“That is why I advised the secretary to remove him from all the posts.”

In Sri Lanka, ad hominem attacks are common in politics. An ad hominem (circumstantial) attack attempts to show the bias of the proponent of a position in a bid to sway listeners, without actually dealing with the merits of the case and trying to ascertain whether the facts of the argument itself are correct or not.

As a result, ad hominem attacks – also known as mud-slinging – are considered to be an informal logical fallacy.

Aluthgamage also said he was ready to withdraw his decision and to render a public apology to Marambe if the Professor of the University of Peradeniya proves he had not worked for the private sector agrochemical firm.

“What is said by the Hon Minister is correct – that I have provided services, being on the board of private sector company etc.,” Marambe told EconomyNext.

“When an agriculture-based private sector organization requests my support in their operations through proper channels, what are we to do as Sri Lankans and technically competent people?”

“Are we to ask those companies to obtain services from a Buddhist monk or a medical practitioner?” he questioned.

“I think we have to be happy when both state and private sector organizations invite us to serve them and technically support them in addition to what we offer.”

Looming Food Shortage

Marambe, a former Dean of Agriculture Faculty at the University of Peradeniya had been warning in recent newspaper articles that an overnight shift to organic fertilizer could lead to crop declines that in turn cause huge food shortages within months.

He cautioned that a crop failure would force the government to import food at a time when money printing has created a forex shortage.

In an article titled “A tragedy of relying on misinformation”, he said Sri Lanka is likely to import a major portion of basic food needs, such as rice, adding to external woes and reducing the domestic generation of value.

“I just can’t work out what is wrong in those if my scientific explanation is correct,” he said.

“If I brought in that agency for the discussion and forced their name on for any financial gains for the said company, then I do understand the basis for this allegation. So the Hon Minister needs not to apologize in public.”

“We have to empower all stakeholders in the agriculture sector in this country.

“As the case of the farming community, the private sector is important and their technical capacities should be built through continuing programmes.

“If we are not going to do that, especially when invited, who else will do that? That has been my position in the past, is now, and will be in the future.”

He also responded to the minister’s allegation over him being the reason to stop the ban on glyphosate, which was also banned citing it was causing chronic kidney disease.

“In the case of glyphosate, I went against the procedure adopted to ban the same.

“Previous government decided later, based on my presentation with others, to lift the ban for 36 months for tea and rubber thus providing an opportunity for the producers to have a gradual transition,” he said.

“Moreover, I did not object when the government allowed the importation of glyphosate through the Ceylon Petroleum Corporation. My effort was to safeguard the tea industry mainly though the rubber sector also got the benefit.”

He said the situation present regarding organic agriculture is the same.

Sudden Decisions

“All are sudden decisions without assessing the scientific facts and continue to make blunders one after the other,” Marambe said.

“So indeed there are similarities in the efforts I made on two policy decisions taken by the government,”

“When I fought for the glyphosate issue, where the company in which I was in as a non-executive Director (while continuing to work in the Faculty of Agriculture at the University of Peradeniya) did have the benefit.

“I did not even bother because the end result is that the tea and rubber sectors got the benefits.”

“If I had cried foul asking the government to give such a tender to the said company, then, of course, I would have been a person who had worked with a conflict of interest.”

President Gotabaya Rajapaksa in April banned all the chemical fertilizers, pesticides, and weedicides when the entire country was not ready to adopt only organic agriculture.

The administration has said chemicals were triggering non-communicable diseases including kidney disease and the move would save around 200 million dollars spent on imports.

However, as farmers’ protests grew with burning effigies of Aluthgamage with two horns and scientists warned of a looming disaster of food shortage, the government has relaxed a part of the fertilizer ban.

“In the present case, when the Ministry repeatedly made errors with a definite negative impact on agriculture, I cannot keep my mouth shut, and so did the others,” Marambe said.

“Our effort was to get the government in the correct course. The concept is noble but the operational mechanism is full of blunders.” (Colombo/Nov01/2021)

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Leave a Comment

Leave a Comment

Cancel reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Sri Lanka could get US$500mn from ADB in 2024

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka could receive 500 million US dollars in support from the Asian Development Bank in 2024 based on the progress of policy reforms, Country Director of the Manila-based lender, Takafumi Kadono said.

The ADB expect to go to its Board around March or April with a 100 million US dollar power sector loan subject to the cabinet of ministers of approving a revised electricity reform bill.

A 100 million dollar loan to support SMEs could also be approved in the early part of the year. Sri Lanka is setting up a credit guarantee agency to support credit for small firms.

A 200 million dollar credit for financial sector was also slated for the year. The ADB gave the first tranche of the financial sector policy loan late last year.

A $100mn for the water sector could also be approved later in the year.

Sri Lanka could get around 200 to 300 million US dollars a year at the lowest rate, or concessional ordinary capital resources (COL) rate of 2 percent.

The balance of would come at the ordinary capital resource rate linked to SOFR.

The ADB has also started work on a ‘Country Partnership Strategy’ for Sri Lanka covering the 2024-2028 period, Kadodo said. (Colombo/Feb25/2024)

Continue Reading

Sri Lanka’s multi-aligned foreign policy based on friendship: Min

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka’s multi-aligned foreign policy is based on friendship to all and enmity to none, its Minister of Foreign Affairs has said.

“Non-alignment means not becoming a bystander. Non-alignment means you are not forced or coerced into a camp to take sovereign decisions… you make your own choices. Whether it is commercial, security, regional or otherwise,” M U M Ali Sabry said on X (twitter).

“I have repeatedly stressed that sovereignty is the right to have your own opinion on what’s right and wrong, and to stand by your principles. Our multi-aligned foreign policy is based on friendship to all and enmity to none,” Sabry was quoting from his speech at the Lakshman Kadirgamar Institute of International Relations and Strategic Studies (LKI) Foreign Policy Forum, on the theme ‘Reassessing Non-Alignment in a Polarised World’.

Sri Lanka is one of the founding members of the Non-Aligned Movement.

The strategically located island has been increasingly walking a fine line between opposing global factions as it seeks to come out of a financial crisis. (Colombo/Feb24/2024)

Continue Reading

Sri Lanka’s Commercial Bank Dec net down on tax provisions

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka’s Commercial Bank of Ceylon reported profits of 6.9 billion rupees from the December 2023 quarter down 21 percent, despite an improvement in net interest income and lower provisions, amid a change in tax provisions.

Pre-tax profits were 8.89 billion rupees up from 2.4 billion rupees. There was a 6.4 billion tax reversal last year compared to a 1.7 billion rupee tax charge this year.

Commercial Bank reported earnings of 5.26 rupees for the quarter. For the year to December 2023 earnings were 16.07 rupees per share on total profits of 21.1 billion rupees, down 11.3 percent.

Net fee and commission income was down 1.2 percent to 6.1 billion rupees.

Net interest income went up 16.8 percent to 25.5 billion rupees, with interest income rising marginally by 1.3 percent to 73.0 billion rupees and interest expense falling 5.45 percent to 47.5 billion rupees.

Loans and advances to customers grew 4.06 percent to 1.17 billion rupees in the year to December. Debt and other financial instruments fell 10.5 percent to 649 billion rupees.

Financial assets measured and fair value through other comprehensive income was at 287 billion rupees, up from 117 billion rupees.

Impairment charges were 13.1 billion rupees, down from 19.6 billion rupees last year.

Gross assets were up 6.45 percent to 2.36 billion rupees. Net assets were up 5.51 percent to 214 billion rupees. (Colombo/Feb24/2024)

Continue Reading