Sunday Observer Online


Sunday, 30 November 2008





Marriage Proposals
Government Gazette

Towards more effective coastal management programmes

The Coast Conservation Act is recognised worldwide as a pioneering piece of legislation. It established the Coast Conservation Department and provided a solid legislative framework for integrated coastal zone management in Sri Lanka at a time no more than a handful of countries had initiated similar programmes to ensure sustainable development along their coastal areas.

The publication of the book 'A Review of Coastal Zone Laws and Implementation Experience in Sri Lanka' by Parakrama Karunaratne is indeed very timely. It takes a much needed look into the Act to assess the legal foundation of Sri Lanka's coastal management efforts in terms of its effectiveness in supporting the current policy framework and its adequacy to meet future imperatives.

Parakrama Karunaratne, Attorney-at-Law, has previously worked at the Attorney General's Department in the capacity of Deputy Solicitor General. During his tenure at the AG's Department, he served as a consultant to the Coast Conservation Department and subsequently as Legal Consultant in several projects including the ADB funded Coastal Resources Management Project.

With a strong insight of the last 23 years of implementation, the author describes how the Act evolved and the thought process that spearheaded the legislation. He provides an in-depth legal analysis of the Act as well as other selected legislation pertaining to the coastal zone. Ownership of coastal land and use rights are clarified in terms of the Crown lands Ordinance and the Coast Conservation Act.

The book highlights specific weaknesses and lacunae in the law and shows how certain subsequent legislation such as the Mines and Minerals Act has undermined the Coast Conservation Act's legal authority.

The book takes the reader through the first Coastal Zone Management Plan of 1990 and the subsequent revisions of 1997 and 2004 and presents both the rationale for the changes in scope over time and how the successive plans have fallen short of the intentions of the Act.

The permit procedure, which is the key regulatory instrument through which the CCD exercises its mandate for administration, control, custody and management of the coastal zone is dealt with in quite some detail and the author point to several areas for improvement both in the Act and in administrative procedures.

Overall, the book treats the subject in a comprehensive manner. However, some of the arguments made could have been substantiated with actual case law experiences drawn from CCD's recent experiences in litigation.

Some examples of 'practice' and practical difficulties encountered during litigation would have improved the book a great deal.

The author argues that although a comprehensive policy framework is available for the management of the coastal zone in Sri Lanka, the legislative framework in its present form is insufficient to achieve the stated policy objectives. He also explain why in its present form the Act is inadequate and deficient to provide a sufficient legal basis to address habitat degradation and emerging development priorities such as oil and gas exploration. In the last chapter, the author provides a number of recommended measures to overcome the deficiencies in the key programme areas and enhance the effectiveness of the legislation.

The book, therefore, offers not only food for thought but is also a 'call to action' aimed primarily at the Coast Conservation Department.

At a time when the Coast Conservation Department needs to look for new directions and ways to address new and emerging coastal management priorities, this book will undoubtedly be a great resource.

Next to the very lucidly presented arguments and the thorough assessment of the legislation, I find the book of great value for its successful compilation of a large amount of information and arguments contained in various published and unpublished conference papers, plan and strategy documents and administrative records. This is a great service rendered to the new generation of coastal managers.

This book will be of considerable interest to all those wishing to built more effective coastal management programmes, including coastal managers, planners, researchers and university students.

Priced at Rs. 490 the book (published by Stamford Publishers) is available at all leading book stores or can be purchased on the internet at

[As Deputy Manager Planning and later as Manager Coastal Resources Development at the Coast Conservation Department, Mrs. Dianeetha Sadacharan played a leading role in the implementation of the Coast Conservation Act during 1983-1993.

Since relocating to the Netherlands she worked as Senior Project Manager in the National Institute of Coastal and Marine Management, in the Dutch Ministry of Transport, Public works and Water Management. She now works as an independent consultant in the Netherlands.]

Reminiscences of forty years in Civil Service

Tissa Devendra, who does have a keen sense of humour with quite a starched "official" face, gave us a most amusing collection of stories of his days in the civil service. I also remember Wilhelm Woutersz phoning me one day, chuckling like crazy that he is writing a book and will call it "Ambassadors and Alcohol." Poor William ... a brilliant Royalist who found his niche in the Foreign Service and he did like his alcohol and told me so. He died, and I don't think he likes the idea of being anywhere near the Milky Way. Milk and Wilhelm never agreed.

I now have before me an outstanding civil servant's reminiscences of his forty years in service in the government and then in an IGO based in Jakarta. Meet Mr. Punchihewa who we all should know and, as he says in his Preface. "I have embellished... with additional background and sometimes even with a little bit of spice..."

Way to go, for those really were the days. Twenty-five short and most entertaining stories of lots of doings and undoings. Believe it or not, the higher echelons in Government don't always nurture a load of po-faced, high-strung, ultra-serious workaholics. If this should ever be the case. I'll emigrate. After all, in 1959 Alec Brown, who was examining the business of ribaldry said: "As long as we laugh at our rulers, we do not overthrow them."

Punchihewa, bless his soul, has given us this collection as a sort of safety valve, and we can call to mind a lot of fun and games. But I warn you, don't stand under a fitful moon and watch a big-brass MP chop down a coconut palm and laugh boisterously. This is something Punchihewa also tells of.

I'm not going to fill this review with all manner of quotes, nor do I have to offer a lowdown on all the stories in this book. They are all very well written, to the point, and squirrels into the minds of the characters. We have a Kalutara GA sending out for mangosteens because the president wants to take them to some European bozo. Thank heaven it was a lady president or else we would have a had a Frankenstein taking off with a box of mangosteens.

There is a brace of hamuduruwo to give the Anuradhapura GA some frantic thoughts and an MP and the Chairman of a Town Council who like to binge, create a commotion in a rest house about who pays and then totter off possibly singing Gahuwa neda vadakaha sudiya. There's the Secretary to the Treasury who will always raise a point of order. Okay, let me quote:

The ST wants Siriweera to handle the Puttalam election.

"Sir, I have no experience in election work."

"Yes, men, When you marry you do not have any experience! You can leave tomorrow morning..."

Well, Siriweera did and put much of the work in the hands of the election officers, Madanayake and Abeyratne. Instead of jeeping to the Pookulam polling station they took a boat across the Kalpitiya lagoon - and didn't come back. Reporting their disappearance at the police station was something else. The OIC was asleep and there was a lot of arrack in the air. When roused and told of the problem, he said:

"If the buggers are dead, we will bring the bodies tomorrow morning." (and he went back to sleep).

There is the nonconformist GA who wore shorts when on official duty and nearly got the short end of the stick, and the MP who told a story about a dog to keep his audience happy.... and the MP who wanted a kurumba at midnight.

Yes, the stories are in a near Wodehousean style and thy do hark back to the days when there was infinitely less corruption, no packs of thugs and other such jackals to walk in the footsteps of politicians. The Secretary to the Treasury will tell you of the calibre of candidates in those days... and what of the Assistant Commissioner of Local Government who called for a good Sri Lankan rice and curry at the Anuradhapura rest house? Having chewed on a piece of chicken he told of how in the days of the kings, a rooster could hop rooftops to travel from Polonnaruwa to Anuradhapura, and told the rest house keeper: "You have cooked that rooster!"

Read of the Vap Mangula and know why buffaloes stampeded and why a girl had to push the Co-operative Development Officer's car. Rest houses seem to have been good stage settings. The GA who wanted beef steak could not have it. Nor could he have fish, chicken or eggs. Another batch of buffaloes also run amok while a GA crawls in the mud. Didn't anyone tell him that the animals are sensitive to Ali Dong crackers?

There's much to entertain you when Punchihewa gets on to consultants, experts and specialists - travelling in "becaks" in Indonesia, gathering for Saturday night "minggumalum" in Jakarta, being robbed in Rome; getting stuck in a ferry in Samoa: and experiencing a first-hand bug infestation in the first class sleeping-car of a South Asian train and going on to drink well-salted tea in Warsaw.

Also, its no fun being attacked by a union-organised mob in Kerala, but surely we are well used to this by now.

If you want to enjoy reading a very entertaining book, go get your copy. It's purse-friendly too and you won't need a Central Bank bailout.

This is a book that should be in the hands of a lot of our politicos and ministry officials.

Those were the days - the good old days, when even Camelot was Drinkalot, when food was of the best and tastiest and when presidents took mangosteens abroad. Have fun!

Book news

Architecture of a "Pioneer Modernist"

Anoma Pieris brings into focus the work of architect and academic Valentine Gunasekara in her book, now out on the shelves titled "Imagining Modernity:

The Architecture of Valentine Gunasekara (Stamford Lake Ltd, 2007).

A graduate from the Architectural Association School of Architecture, UK in 1956 and the recipient of many awards including the most recent - the Life Time Achievement Award given by the Sri Lanka Foundation, Los Angeles, Gunasekara is considered the "pioneer modernist" when it comes to new forms of architecture in Sri Lanka.

Talking about how he ventured into architecture Gunasekara states "I don't know where it came from... nobody knew what it was (at the time).

I had never been interested in the Colombo Museum or the parliamentary buildings, which I found horrible. I lived in an area where there were some Walawwas in the neighbourhood but I never wanted to live in even to me it was very surprising that I wanted to do it..." (Chapter 2).Pieris, herself an architect and a senior lecturer at the Faculty of Architecture, University of Melbourne, sees his work as a revelation of the European and American influences that shaped the first generation of architects in Sri Lanka and their efforts at adapting new materials and technologies to a very different climate and culture.The book gives detailed descriptions of Gunasekara's designs for homes, churches, schools, commercial buildings and hotels and provides a substantive discussion of his "modernist expressions".


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