Laya Waves: A Cosy Holiday for now: A Catalyst for Future Development
Posted on August 15th, 2020

By Garvin Karunaratne, Ph.D.

On my second visit to Laya Waves I was struck with some new ideas.

To get down to the hospitality track, the sleuths who have forgotten their guns for now and are on an entirely different – hospitality track; they are a marvel. The accommodation was spick and span., cleanliness perfect,  the front desk manned by Dilruksha and Chandima courteous and very helpful, even attending to my car for a small defect, and last but most important of all,  the chef, Nishanta Perera, a great chef, with a hand that makes every meal tasty- mouth-watering in the extreme. At the end of a meal we wait for the next to see what he offers and he was always up to the mark. It is very rare to find a chef of that ability.

In my working life in Sri Lanka,  the Administrative Service has taken me to work in eight districts and my covering the whole island for agricultural loans, fertilizer distribution and paddy cultivation for some five years, with islandwide circuits. I am thus aware of what is where. These range from the Guava belt in Belihul Oya-Balangoda, the Rambutan belt in Dompe, the Mangosteen belt in Kalutara,  the Coffee belt in Kitulgala, the Pepper belt in Wellawaya, the Tomato belt in Hanguranketa, the Flower and Vegetable Belt in Nuwara Eliya- Bandarawela,  where flowers grow wild and I bagged more than my salary from flowers and vegetables in my years’ stay at Nuwara Eliya, the Avacado belt from Galaha to Peradeniya, and the Dry Zone Areas-Padaviya to Anuradhapura and Moneragala to Tissamaharamsa, wherein any one season November to February all the fruit needed to make Sri Lanka self-sufficient in all fruit and juice can be produced. Today we import fruit juice and jam from the USA, Australia & Europe. Hanguranketa can provide all the tomatoes we need to provide our full requirement of tomato sauce which we today import from as far as the USA. That can be a years’ project- setting up a small Cannery and processing fruit. I am certain that it can be accomplished in a year.  Once we exported coffee but today we do not grow and we import from Europe. Coffee does not grow in Europe, but is imported in seed from Africa, processed in Belgium and exported to our countries. At Kitulgala on my inspections I have been struck with the luscious coffee bunches. I know of the  Cardamum- Spices belt in Kotmale- sadly denuded today by the Kotmale Dam.

It is a sad fact that these resources are not put to full use, though Mother, Nature has provided all bountifully. The produce goes to waste and the people remain within the bounds of poverty.  In the Fifties and Sixties, we made progress but the rot set in,  in 1977 with President Jayawardena accepting the International Monetary Fund’s Structural Adjustment Programme with open arms. That was our undoing. Told to accept the Private Sector as the Engine of Growth, we were advised to abolish and abandon the development infrastructure that our leaders had painstakingly developed- the Cannery and the Veg and Fruit Marketing Scheme, of the Marketing Department and to this day we have failed to bring back that development infrastructure to enable development to commence once again. We fail to understand that the lost infrastructure is a prerequisite for development. Unfortunately to please the IMF we have to follow their advice and seek foreign investment. We sadly forget that all foreign investment is geared not to develop our country but to take away our resources in some form or other. The latest is to come in, trade-in local currency, but take away the profits in foreign currency from our reserves. Our economic sleuths are naïve and fail to grasp.

On this Visit to Laya Waves what struck me was the two large plots where aloe vera grows wild. I have never seen that wild growth anywhere else. I inquired and the sleuths who now maintain the garden told me that the trick was perhaps the salty water and the climate.

My craze for travel has taken me  to Lanzarotte, an island in the Mediterranean, where some  uncultivable land on rugged sedimentary rock is being developed and aloe vera is grown on a large scale with a factory producing a full range of aloe vera products sold everywhere in the Harrods and Selfridges of Europe and USA,

My find of aloe vera thriving at Laya Waves tells, me of a great possibility in development. Its potential if tackled prudently can easily earn billions of dollars, annually to our depleted coffers,  a task, if done at the pace I worked as the G.A. at Matara in 1971-1973, can easily be accomplished within two years. Working singlehandedly in Bangladesh, I designed and established the Youth Self Employment Programme and trained the Bangladeshi officialdom to continue it after my two-year assignment was over- and the result- a programme that has guided three million youths to become employed, all accomplished within nineteen months. The task of developing aloe vera will be a far easier task.

The task to develop aloe vera in Pasikuda can easily be accomplished within two years at most. This estimate of time is not out of the hat but a calculation based on sheer experience in similar exploits. My working life has been full of such exploits. So that estimate of timing can be held firm.. The best method of indicating that this task can be accomplished is to hark back to a similar or more daunting task accomplished by me earlier.. I enclose details of a similar task- establishing Coop Crayon in the Appendix.

Accessing AloeVura products at Orzola Lanzorette, I find the following products::. Gel, Oil, Drink, Cream, Moisturising Cream, anti-ageing Cream, Face Cream, Foot Cream, Night Cream, Dog Shampoo, Shampoo, Hand Cream, Relax Gel, Bath Gel.

Conducting experiments to make the varied aloe vera products will be far easier than finding the art of making crayons and establishing the Crayon Factory.

It is suggested that the Sri Lanka Army may kindly initiate action to conduct experiments at making products with aloe vera.  Nishantha Perera the chef at Laya Waves could provide the leadership for the experiments at the initial stage. Further, the science lab at a College or University has to be commandeered.  An alternative will be to get the Army to put up a tent and get going in Laya Waves itself and to buy essential equipment.

It would be ideal to have some officer from the army who has a background qualification in agriculture, chemistry or biology to be in charge.

This Project has to be handled by a person of standing like a Brigadier as there has to be contacted with many high ranking officials in government institutions, the Ministry of Industries,  Food Technology Institutes, Department of Education, Ministries etc and the person appointed at the initial stage at the helm has to be able to shake Government Departments and spur them to action..  After a few years when the industry is well on the keel, the high ranking officer can be removed and an officer like a Lt Colonel or Major could handle the project.

May I also suggest that the land of the Army  Bungalow next to Laya Wave be used to cultivate aloe vera, The land has to be prepared immediately if the planting is to be done with the November rains.

I am aware that there is a section of the Army that attends to agriculture and is actively involved in producing food crops. A Unit of that section can be put on the task of producing aloe vera at Pasikuda. Full details have to be worked out and I am dead certain  of success not only in production but in developing foreign sales which will bring in an income in foreign exchange

An idea may be for an officer from the agriculture and land cultivation section of the Army to be consulted, especially to find whether any crown land suitable for the cultivation of aloe vera is available in the vicinity. If the land is available the Army can open a farm. Simultaneously the army can have seed farms, distribute to private farmers and collect the crop.

It may be interesting to note that in the USA the Army is used for many development projects. The Mission of the US Army Corps of Engineers is to deliver vital public and military engineering services, partnering in peace and war to strengthen our nation’s security, energise the economy and reduce risks from disasters”. 

 At New Orleans, a city below the sea level,  levees(bunds) are constructed and maintained by the Army. On the Columbia River, there are stupendous hydro projects constructed and manned by the Army. I have seen these stupendous structures. The US Army is deployed in many ways for civilian functions. In my travels in the USA-I owned a MotorHome and have clocked over 50,000 miles crossing the USA thrice and have seen for myself the stupendous civilian work being done by the US Army all over the USA. It is my opinion that the  Sri Lankan Army can and has to play a major role in bringing about the economic development of our beloved Motherland.

Expecting the Private Sector to contribute is wishful thinking. The Private Sector has to make a profit as its motto. Poverty alleviation, creating productivity, national development is not within their vocabulary. Projects like developing Aloe vera products have to be done by the State and the Armed Forces can easily be entrusted with that task. In the hands of the ARMY, success can be assured.

. I am aware that planting aloe vera is in progress at Wilpattu. However, that is at an infancy stage and there is ample scope for a few industries to be established in aloe vera.

I am dead certain of success. The success does not depend on the ability to grow aloe vera.  Success will depend on the leader chosen, who has to have a personality;  foreign sales will depend on the charm of the officer selected. Both must be of the type that can, as the saying goes- take fire underwater. ,

I wish to be associated with any initiatives and can assure success. It would b a pleasure to contribute to the development of our  Motherland.

Garvin Karunaratne, B.A, & M.A.( Peradeniya), M.Ed.(Manchester)

, M.Phil (Edinburgh) & Ph.D. (Michigan State University)

Former SLAS, G.A.Matara.(1971-1973)

Commonwealth Fund Advisor to the Ministry of Labour & Manpower in Bangladesh, 1982-1983, who designed, directed and established the Youth Self Employment Programme in Bangladesh, the premier employment creation programme the world has known, a programme that has left its imprint on the sands of time.

Author of

How the IMF Ruined Sri Lanka & Alternative Programmes of Success.(Godages) 2006

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

13/08/2020      garvin_karunaratne


Tasks accomplished in the Divisional Development Councils Programme of 1970-1977

 Let me detail what I did as the Government Agent at Matara in 1971–73, when I was charged to create employment.   

 While most Government Agents in charge of other districts , some of  whom adorned the seats of Secretaries to Ministries in later life,  slept and were satisfied with small potty little agricultural farms and small sewing and craft type of small industries, my team  at Matara put forward semi large industries. The first was a Mechanized Boatyard turning out 40 foot seaworthy inboard motor fishing boats. The Ministry of Planning did not appreciate and the Director of the Fisheries Department was dead against but after  a lone battle, I obtained approval and the Boatyard, the first and last such cooperative industry was established within  three months. It was done by my handpicked officers Ran Ariyadasa and Development Assistant Kumarasiri(later Secretary to the Ministry of  Employment Creation under  Minister Basil Rajapaksa, ) We successfully turned out some 30/40  boats a year. That was a feather in the cap of the DDCP.

My feasibility reports to establish  similar small industries- a Water Colour Paint Box Industry,  A Grass Growing and Milk Producing Industry with a Creamery at Deniyaya were all turned down and lost. The Ministry was frightened at new undertakings and advised me to make bricks and tiles. I was disgusted and instead of lying down, took charge of the situation.

 I summoned the Planning Officer Vetus Fernando, a chemistry graduate of the University of Colombo, a graduate who had not had a day’s experience in chemistry since graduating, fed him all details I knew about  a Water Colour Industry.  Once I had approved an allocation of foreign exchange to an industrialist that made water colours and knew the ingredients but not the proportions and techniques-that was when I had served as a Deputy Director of Small Industry. Making water colours to my thinking was akin to make Crayons and I got Vetus to apply his knowledge of chemistry to make crayons. We bought the ingredients and decided to make a start on experiments at my Residence in the night. In a few days we realized that more equipment was needed. I then obtained approval to use the science lab at Rahula College, the Leading College in the District. That science lab was ours from six in the evening till midnight, The Headquarters Assistant Government Agent   Wimalaratne, District Land Officer Chandra Silva, Development Assistant Palihakkara and I  were the Cheer Leaders who went cheering the scientists – Vetus Fernando and the science teachers at Rahula, when they did fail in every experiment for a long two months. The crayons we made were never of the correct texture. Then Vetus got a brain wave. He was a trained chemistry graduate and said he will consult his professors who had trained him in chemistry a year ago at the University of Colombo. He took the crayons we had made and was certain that working in the university labs equipped with  sophisticated equipment that we did not have in the school lab,  he could sort out the problem with ease. We awaited his arrival. 

Vetus turned up on the fourth day a broken down and dejcted man. He had gone behind every professor and lecturer he knew and beseeched help but had been turned away because they were too busy teaching and reading through student tutorials. That defeat made us more determined. Earlier I had been there only on some days, but I made it a point to go to the school lab every evening. My team was very determined and daily the experiments went on. Finally in about a months’ time after a myriad- really countless experiments Vetus finally made the final crayon. Then I sat with him and we together finalised the texture to be equal to the Reeves crayons that we then imported from the UK.

Then the question cropped up of how we were going to establish an industry. I could have summoned Harischandra a business magnate and he would have liked the idea of establishing a factory., But that would not be us. Finally I decided that we should establish it as a cooperative  managed by us. I summoned Sumanapala Dahanayake, the member of parliament for Deniyaya, who was also the President of the Morawak Korale Cooperative Union. In my estimate he was a tough guy, tough to the extreme if necessary. The Union had enough money to roll till we recouped the expenditure involved through sales.  However he had no authority to use the funds to establish an industry. I too though I controlled a vast amount of finances did not have authority. It was a major stalemate.  I could try to speak to  the Commissioner of Cooperative De velopment  for approval but I was certain that he would turn it down. That officer followed rules to the very letter. He was a great friend of mine but of the type that would not use his discretion to interpret rules.. For purposes of ensuring coordination in paddy production Premier Dudley Senanayake had gazetted all Government Agents as Deputy Directors of Cooperatives.  That was for coordinating the paddy production. I  summoned the Assistant Commisioner for Cooperatives in Matara and told him that I am using my designation as Deputy Commissioner of Cooperative Development as authorized by the gazette notification and approving the Morawak Korale Coioperative Union to finance the project and establish the industry,. I ordered him  not to breathe of this decision to his Commissioner.

I authorized the Morawak Korale Cooperative Union to buy the cookers, gas burners  and other equipment,  find premises and recruit twenty youths. Sumanapala needed only two days. A section of his Cooperative Union was cleared for this projected and my team of five moved in . It was to be a 24 hour operation, with Vetus training the youths and Chandra, Ranjith and Daya taking turns, all working round the clock.. I broke rest on about three days till everything was off the ground, living on shortmeats and sipping coffee provided by Gunam Tambipillai an Estate Owner a firm supporter in all our endeavours at bringing about development.  It was a hand made crayon where every crayon had to be carefully crafted. The youths worked in shifts. On the second day production was in good progress and Sumanapala ordered the printing of labels. The production got on and in two weeks there were two large rooms full of crayon packets.

Sumanapala and I then went off with samples to meet the Minister of Industries Mr TB Subasinghe who was surprised at the quality and he readily agreed to officiate to open sales.   That was a grand occasion and with that authority Sumanapala and I felt safe for having worked without Ministry authority. Both of us had bent rules and regulations all for the sake of national development.

The only import within the ingredients that went in to the manufacture was dyes. Dyes were imported and I sought an allocation from the Ministry of Industries, the Department where I had worked two years earlier when I had the authority to offer an allocation of foreign exchange, But I was told that the Ministry did not have funds for cooperatives and we were lost.

In a few days I met Harry Guneratne the Controller of Imports the officer who allocated foreign exchange for imports and  he was allocating funds for the import of crayons. I pointed out that by allocating a fraction  of what he was spending for imports to enable us to import dyes he could cancel the import of crayons. He was an immediate convert but wanted us to get the aspproval of his Minister Mr Illangaratnre.  Sumanapala knew him but I had never met him earlier. We produced the crayons we made and he not only approved an allocation of foreign exchange to import dyes but also insisted that I should open a crayon factory at Kolonnawa, his electorate. Harry canceled all imports of crayons. This true story tells us the one and only method of saving our foreign exchange. .In addition we created employment. It was poverty alleviation.

Coop Crayon got off the ground and Sumanapala developed it to have islandwide sales. His Coop lorries, selling crayons  reached both Alimankada and Pamankada. This Coop Crayon was the best industry that we established.

This industry was managed well by Sumanapala.

I left Matara for further studies abroad  in 1973.  Sumanapala managed Coop Crayon and when Sirimavo fell in the 1977 Premier Jayawardena wanted to somehow punish Sumanapala. That was political vengeance.  Years later I met AT Ariyaratne  an officer of the Administrative Service and when I stated that I had been GA Matara, he told me that in 1977 he had been sent on a special mission-instructed by President Jayawardena to inspect and audit  Coop Crayon and find some misdeed to punish Sumanapala and to close down the Crayon Factory. He was the Deputy Director of Cooperative Development. He told me that he had spent a few days inspecting and auditing  but had to report that the industry was run well and that all books were in perfect order. Ariyaratne was not the type of officer who would stoop to find evidence to please someone in authority.

I have dealt with CoopCrayon in full detail to enable us to realize the difficulties involved in establishing an industry. Though an industry can be established it is a difficult task . However it can be done.

I have to conclude stating that establishing an aloevira industry is a far easiler task.

Garvin Karunaratne


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