Letters to the Editor

7th May 2000

Bravo doctor

Bravo Dr. Siyambalapitiya! If your explanation (The Sunday Times - April 02) fails to open the eyes of the Bishop of Chilaw and his followers - God save us all! 

If the Catholic Church does not take timely action to enlighten those followers who are up in arms against the setting up of the coal power plant at Noraichcholai, it is certain to go down in history for being totally responsible for future power shortages and the high cost of electricity. 

Palita P. Subasinghe 

Pope has nothing to do with coal

Dr. Tilak Siyambalapitiya in The Sunday Times of April 4, argues that since the Pope uses energy from coal power plants (CPPs) in Italy, irrespective of impacts on church buildings, the negative stand taken by the Bishop of Chilaw on the proposed CPP in Kalpitiya is inconsistent with the Vatican policy on energy utilization.

The comparisons that Dr. Siyambalapitiya makes between the CPPs in Italy and Sri Lanka are out of place in time, space and values. 

As for time, the CPPs in Italy have not taken more than 15 years to get approval to commence work, as in Sri Lanka. 

As for space, the proposed location of the plant has been moved from the east and south of the country to the west, but at all sites the reception has been frustratingly negative. 

As for values, it is not the mandate of the Pope to lead the church on energy policy or any other mundane policy, but to guide the church spiritually, morally and culturally. 

The reference of Dr. Siyambalapitiya to the migration of workers from Chilaw area to Italy is totally irrelevant, since their plight is associated with economic conditions. 

Dr. Siyambalapitiya considers the CPP from an engineering and economic perspective, irrespective of who benefits. I look at it from an environmental point of view that takes into account the economic benefits for all. 

I am sure that at this stage an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) on the project has been completed. It must have been preceded by an Environmental Impact Study (EIS). 

The document must have been exhibited for public comments and the ongoing community consultation is an important step in the process. If the impacts are not significant, but affect the people in the locality, concessions such as half electricity rates to the affected areas can be given. 

If the impacts are significant, then the plan needs to be dropped and alternatives examined. 

Perhaps a number of small plants, coal or otherwise may be reviewed as an alternative. 

The concerns of Bishop Marcus are understandable. He has seen the impact of tourism on the Negombo youth. He has witnessed the plight of displaced families in Iranawila. Perhaps, he has seen the impact of cement dust on plants and people around the Puttalam Cement Factory. 

Naturally the Bishop is concerned when the plant is expected to be situated close to a shrine. In his struggle to preserve the well-being of his flock and the environment, the Bishop sounds like Arundati Roy of India. 

Dr. Leonard Pinto 

Ministry of Post: 

Bill rings a bell

The postal pot has begun to boil again. A weekend newspaper claims that the postal services would be sold to a Dutch firm. The Post and Telecom Minister quickly refuted this report. 

Of course, we cannot take these denials for granted. Remember ministers pledged heaven and earth that telecom services would never be privatized. 

Since then, telecom charges have increased manifold and people are called upon to pay enhanced rates through their noses in addition to paying back World Bank loans. 

Now, it is the turn of the postal services to dance to the tune of the World Bank. The Postal Corporation Bill presented in Parliament in February 1999 was aborted on a rights petition submitted to the Supreme Court which ruled out that, the aim of the proposed Bill, viz, to make postal services a profit making venture, violates the fundamental rights of the people.

The letter is the commonest form of communication of the poor, hence, postal charges will have to be maintained at minimum rates. 

At stake are billions of rupees worth of real estate properties belonging to the Postal Department, people's heritage accrued through two hundred years of postal history dating back to the colonial era. 

Numerous postal buildings in Colombo as well as all principal towns and those in every nook and corner of the island could be, 'given on lease or hire, mortgaged, sold or otherwise disposed of' (Sri Lanka Postal Corporation Bill page 4 part 2 para 6F) if the proposed Bill were adopted. 

The postal pot is boiling. Will it be the same fate that befell Telecom? 

Stanley Weerasinghe

Can you buy pork in Beruwela?

M.M. Illiyas of Colombo 06 had said in a letter to the press that I have tried to dictate terms to the Muslim community. Why does he pinpoint me alone? Has he not seen other prominent people, like lawyer Weeraratne, Prof. Palliyawardane, Mrs. Sagarika Karunanayake of Sathwa Mithrayo and others write articles giving logical reasons against home slaughter.

I expressed the view of other people. Not only the Buddhists and Hindus, but people of even other religions who have written or phoned me against this type of slaughter. 

At a panel discussion on TV, a Muslim did say that if the slaughter is done in the premises where people of other religions are disturbed and object, it should not be done. 

He further said that slaughter in homes for Hajj is not a must for the Muslims. Mr. Illiyas should read his religious books and clear his misconceptions. 

I do admit that the Municipality issues permits under an ancient by-law, which so many agree should be abolished. 

After all, Sri Lanka is a predominantly Buddhist country. So people of other religions should not hurt their feelings. 

May I ask Mr. Illiyas whether pork stalls exist in the town of Beruwela or whether there is pork in restaurants in the Middle East? No Buddhist will ask for a pork dish. 

In the same way the Muslims should not disturb the peace of Buddhist and Hindu neighbours. 

Dr. C. Godamunne
Kandy Humanitarian Society


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