A Boquet to President Gotabhaya and his team
Posted on October 29th, 2020

By Garvin Karunaratne, former G.A. Matara

It was a great sight to see Paper roll out of Valachenai once again.

Thanks to our President and his team, including Minister Weerawamsa, officials of he Paper Mill and the Armed Forces that contributed  to Mother Lanka to bring back Valachenai to life.

Two years ago I had spent a few cosy nights at Bay Vista in Arugam Bay and on my way to Laya Waves, Pasikuda, I ventured out to see what was left of the Valachenai Paper Mill, one of my favourite haunts on my never ending circuits long ago. I motored to the gates that were shut, held firmly by trees and shrubs. I alighted from my car walked upto the gates, held the gate firmly with my hands and gazed at the buildings in ruins, with creepers and trees growing in them. I was sad, and gazed  for at least ten minutes.

That was my humble veneration. It was the Circuit Bungalow of this Mill that offered me a home perhaps a dozen times on my circuits to the East long ago. The purring engine of my Humber Hawk did that distance with easy with a single stop at a store inspection at Polonnaruwa.

Very recently we had the occasion to get lost in the jungles around  Tantirimale. We were motoring to Sandamal Eliya to the temple  to donate a wheel chair, to anyone who needs it,   in the ancient manner in inscriptions- agata anagata chatudiga sagasa”(for the Ven. Monks that came or will come from the four directions)_  and having known the roads once, turning here and there we got lost in the illuk jungles of Mahawillachchiya. I had for a moment forgotten that the roads I traveled on in the Sixties, when I commanded my troops in agrarian services in the march at paddy cultivation, succeeding in reaching self sufficiency by 1970, had been changed with new roads. We were lost and illuk was everywhere. It took long to find our way back  as the illuk could not speak back to show us the way. Finally when we reached Sandamal Eliya, very late, Ven Sangarakkita greeted us and provided dane- a mid day meal to the weary travellers, I inquired about the illuk that was threatening human existence- growing everywhere. He replied

Illuk is a nuisance. We set fire to it when it invades us. We know not what to do with it.”

On the way back after a cosy nights sleep at Miridiya, in Anuradhapura, it struck me that originally the Valachenai Paper Mill machinery was intended to make paper out of illuk. Illuk is a stronger product than straw and did provide both the long fibre and the short fibre that was required to make paper.  Valachenai mill proved great and devoured the illuk all around and the machinery grounded to a halt in a few years.  All was lost. But not so, due to the ingenuity of our engineers and scientists. They unearthed for the first time how straw can be used to make paper. It was then that I came on the scene, going behind the straw lorries for miles on  end,  enroute to the East. The straw provided only the short fibre and we had to import paper pulp to mix with the straw. Even then we produced paper till the LTTE took over. 

The irony of it all is that we, who unearthed how to make paper out of straw   do not use straw( till President Gotabhaya got it working recently) while India and China have marched miles ahead.

I have in my Papers suggested that a few small paper mills be imported from China or India, set them up in Padaviya, Tissa and Mahavillachchiya and turn our straw into paper. The cost of the paper machines and installing it can be recouped in one year from the savings on the obviated imports of paper. Actually we need not import any paper from the end of 2021, if only the Government will allow the import of three small scale mills costing less that a fifth of the cost of paper imports in any one year. If required I will be there to bell the cat.

Once long ago in 1982 in the Bangladesh Secretariat,  about the third day after the military coup, in the room of the Hon Minister for Labour and Manpower in the Military Government of General Ershard I was commanded; What can you do for Bangladesh?”. In short,   as an Advisor I was not wanted. I replied that the Government should approve my establishing a Youth Self Employment Programme to guide the 40,000 youths that were being trained every year to become self employed. The Secretary to the Treasury, the highest official in the land, objected. No one can establish self employment programmes. The ILO failed miserably in the past three years at Tangail and Bangladesh is not going to waste any money again. The ILO are the United Nations specialists and they did fail.” I argued with the Secretary to the Treasury for a full two hours, with the Minister listening. Finally the Minister stopped our duel and ordered me to design and establish a self employment programme.  The Secretary to the Treasury thought he could stop me by telling that he will provide no funds to which I replied that I needed no funds. I said I would find savings within approved budgets and vary the remits of officers. That was approved by the Minister. The rest is history. The self employment programme I designed and established is today the largest and premier employment creation programme the world has known, having guided over three million youths to be self employed.

I am quoting instances of my work to indicate that what I suggest is not out of the blue, but targets that can be achieved.

To get back to the Illuk at Tantirimale I wrote a paper and fanned it out. Prabath at The Island took up the cause and did publish a version: Illuk can reduce poverty and save foreign exchange” in the Island of  29/9/20. Lanka Web published it on 23/9/20- Mahavillachchiya Illuk to alleviate poverty and also to save foreign exchange”.

Making Paper is a clear area where we can be self sufficient in any one year.  The resurrection of Valachenai proves it to the hilt.

Once the Divisional Secretary at Kotmale set up a small industry to make paper out of waste Paper. It was a great success. It is sad to note that Sri Lanka is perhaps the only country in the entire world that wastes its waste paper and not make paper out of it.  Go about anywhere in Colombo and one can see people collecting waste paper and waste cardboard. We do not process it to paper. Instead   we export – some 30 tons a month to India and the ridiculous part of it is that we buy paper and board from India.  Truly we need to have our heads examined.

I remember that a few youths on my Youth Self Employment  programme in Bangladesh were collecting waste paper to make paper and they made incomes out of it.

To get back to the Illuk at Sandamal Eliya the Ven Sangarakkhita had spoken to the chief Venerable Chrandaratana the chief at Tantirimale Raja Maha Vihare, and he came on the phone to me. I have told him  that it is only President Gotabhaya or Prime Minister Mahinda that can call the shots.

Installing a small scale paper mill at Sandamal Eliya can be done in three months, working at the speed I did once in 1971 in establishing the Mechanized Boatyard at Matara.  Then my team did also unearth how to make crayons, within the small science lab at Rahula College Matara, and Sumanapala Dahanayake the Member of Parliament at Deniyaya in his capacity of the President of the Morawak Korale Coop Union established the hand made crayon factory working day and night in two weeks and that Coop Crayon Factory provided all the crayons we needed. Harry Guneratne the Import Controller cancelled the import of all crayons and Coop Crayon ruled the waves till President Jayawardena put a stop to the factory in 1978. That was the development” that the UNP brought to our country!

Today I can only write out my ideas and hope that my thoughts reach his Excellencies President Gotabhaya  and Prime Minister Mahinda and spur them to action.

 Garvin Karunaratne, Ph D Michigan State University

Former Government Agent, Matara

Author of How the IMF Ruined Sri Lanka & Alternate Programmes of Success, Godages 2006 

How the IMF Sabotaged Third World Development,Kindle/Godages, 2017 

29/10/2020

2 Responses to “A Boquet to President Gotabhaya and his team”

  1. dhane Says:

    In 2016 Visited Valachenai factory site and was so sad to see the status it was. During early sixty & seventy as a Printer I used both Valachenai factory Box Board for printing cartons and subsequently white printing paper made at Ebilipitiya factory for book printing. With present Government vision I am sure very soon Box Board in various thickness 250Gsm to 400 Gsm, cover paper and white printing paper could produce to become at least to self sufficient to some extend. The machinery in both Factories are old but durable as they were made in Germany. With improvement of products could go for new machinery eventfully. Good luck Sri Lanka made Box Board & Printing Paper.

  2. jay-ran Says:

    DUE TO THE BLESSINGS OF THE “NOBLE TRIPLE GEM & THE BLESSINGS AND SAFEGUARDING THE GREAT SRI LANKA BY THE GREAT SEVEN NOBLE GODS WHO PROTECT SRI LANKA FROM ALL EVILS,HON,Mr GHOTABHAYA RAJAPAKSA BECAME SRI LANKA’S PRESIDENT AND Hon MAHINDA RAJAPAKSA BECAME THE PRIME MINISTE AT THE CORRECT,APPROPRIATE TIME TO SAVE SRI LANKA FROM TAMIL TERRORISTS & MUSLIM RADICALS!!!”
    IN ADDITION THE GREAT TRY FORCES COMMANDER IN CHIEF BECOMING THE LEADER,COMMANDER IN CHIEF, MADE IT POSSIBLE TO SAVE SRI LANKA WITH Hon PRESIDENT & HON PRIME MINISTER”
    MAY THE NOBLE TRIPLE GEM PROTECT THEM ALL AND ALL CITIZENS OF SI LANLA!!!

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