Systems Ecologist Dr Ranil Senanayake is a rare public intellectual in Sri Lanka. He is extremely well informed, analytical, multidisciplinary -- and courageous enough to speak his mind on matters of public interest.
In 2011, he compiled many of his public media articles into a book titled ‘Clowns to the left of me, jokers to the right, and here I am stuck in the middle again! Thirty years of attempting to affect policy change in Sri Lanka’. It captures his informed commentary and outspoken views on biodiversity conservation, forestry, agriculture and other aspects of sustainable development in the wider social, economic and political context.
In the Epilogue to his book, he makes a chilling observation on how the Lankan state brutally crushed two Marxist youth insurrections – in 1971, and 1987-89. Thousands of bright, young men and women – many of them unarmed and non-combatant -- were arrested and extra-judicially killed for simply being bright, young and vocal. What has this done to the Lankan gene pool and to those who survived the periods of terror? As a conscientious zoologist and Buddhist, Dr Senanayake answers his own question.
This short video, part of a much longer exchange with science writer Nalaka Gunawardene, captures Ranil Senanayake’s lament for Sri Lanka’s Lost Generations – the enormous price of two insurrections and one separatist war that only ended in 2009. “We are all prisoners of our father's hopes and fears,” he says.