Letters to the Editor

10th September 2000

But is anyone really listening?

Let me say at the outset that I am not a political party supporter - of ANY party. My vote floats around airily and fairily from election to election. All I care about is a good local government that can ensure a livable environment. I want to feel that those exorbitant taxes we are paying are being used (in part at least) for our wellbeing. At the moment, I feel nothing of the kind.

The infrastructure, which is so unbelievably great in places like Singapore, is but a Grimm's fairytale here (and the pun on the name Grimm is not accidental). Daily living in Sri Lanka could not be worse. Power cuts are part of the daily agenda for suburban dwellers. Rutted roads remind me that, the first thing to go to pot at the time of the Roman Empire break-up, was those much vaunted roads that all led to Rome. The traffic has gone mad and the violence escalates. Gates out of Colombo are constantly kept locked. Safety is just a word in a dictionary.

But let's take specifics. In the Kotte/Maharagama area a lovely bird sanctuary lies in front of my house. It is now used (probably illegally) as a dumping ground. The stench is enough to make even the scavenger crows turn right round and fly in the opposite direction. Residents around the enormous area shut their windows, turn up air conditioners (which are damned expensive) and just sit it out, fuming at an uncaring and unheeding government.

And now, as if things were not bad enough there comes yet another addition to the long list of grievances. Why has Inner Flower Road been closed may I ask? 

If the Prime Minister taking up residence there is the reason, will he kindly live elsewhere? I think it is outrageous for citizens to be handled thus. 

Detours take over 40 minutes.... and frankly, I don't have that kind of time. I hardly think anyone is going to take a potshot at an inoffensive gentleman of Mr. Wickramanayake's ilk - so I trust that common sense will prevail and the road will be opened pronto.

Another thing that can ruin my day is when darkly shaded and sinister looking cars whiz past me on the main road while pompous policemen, in equally pompous jeeps, horn like hell for the right of way. 

It might interest politicians to know that we are in as much a hurry as they are. I have no objection to moving for the Presidential car - but to have to do so for every minor MP is too much. What better way to lose votes than by all this self-importance?

A further grouse. Life outside home is tough enough but now comes that recent invasion of home privacy. The police, I am told have the right to enter and search houses at their will and pleasure with no actual documentation to tell us if they are genuine policemen or not. Just last week they entered the homes of everyone living behind or around Parliament. My neighbour was aghast. "Four strange men in my bedroom child, and me with no make-up." 

Now I have no reason to dress up for the Police, but if my house was ever thus visited I would like some official documentation for purposes of my own safety.

I could go on like this indefinitely but is anyone really listening? My fellow sufferers will read this and hope like hell that it has some far reaching effect.

I have no such illusions. I know that the Government and the local administrative bodies do not care one little bit.

For me it is a tragic affair for I can recall better times. My feelings of distress at governmental betrayal (for the last 15 years) run deep. I will vote for anyone who will give us the reasonable basics of life.... yes.... even with a war going on. Wastage, corruption and downright thievery is there for us all to see, yet the wrongdoers get away with it.

The Bible tells us to render unto Caesar what is Caesar's. How I wish "Caesar" would render unto us what every civilised being (and tax-payer) has a right to expect. 

-Goolbai Gunasekara

Don't worry over Paracetamol

This is with reference to the recent round of articles on Paracetamol in the papers. This medicine has been used by my family for years. I was concerned when I read articles stating that an overdose of Paracetamol was potentially harmful.

We need to have some medication we can trust, as it is not possible to go to a doctor each time we have a headache or fever. I thus decided to do some research on the Internet and would like to share this information with my fellow readers, as it is the right of every patient to know about the medicine they take.

Doctors from around the world agree that Paracetamol is the safest first line choice of treatment, as it is mild on the stomach and intestinal lining, and its side-effects are rare. It is in fact easier for the body's digestive system to handle than most other medicines.

The Doctors' Guide (www.plsgroup.com) quotes Professor Laurie Prescott, Emeritus Professor of Clinical Pharmacology, University of Edinburgh, UK, as stating, "Paracetamol is a first-line choice for pain management and antipyresis in a variety of patients including children, pregnant women, the elderly, those with osteoarthritis, simple headaches and non-inflammatory musculo-skeletal conditions."

On the other hand, the Mayo Clinic website (www.mayohealth.org) states that extensive use of Aspirin has many side effects, like irritation to the stomach, haemorrhage and allergies. In fact they say Aspirin should not be given to children, as it is associated with the deadly Reye's syndrome.

As regards the overdose issue, over- doses of any medicine are harmful. All brands of Paracetamol have a dosage chart and it is our duty to follow the instructions properly.

Ravi Fernandopulle

These children: who cares?

The report in The Sunday Times of August 27, about the tragic death of a 15-year-old girl, while in the custody of a 'home' at Ranuthugala,which is under the purview of the Department of Probation and Child Care highlights the plight of these and other children in 'care', a misnomer if ever there was one! 

This briefly draws the attention of the powers that be. But what remedial action has been taken to prevent similar incidents recurring? What is the degree of supervision exercised over about 250 'homes', inclusive of homes for mentally and physically handicapped as well as normal children? 

Aren't we all feeling cozy that the Child Protection Act that was passed with much fanfare and no dissent, from any political party, has been a magic wand that has solved all problems connected with children in Sri Lanka? 

The focus so far has been on children, who are physically and sexually abused. While in no way decrying their needs one whit, there is also another category of children, whose needs have been hitherto neglected. 

The fact that they are all under the aegis of the government, getting a government grant, however inadequate and tardy, it maybe makes it convenient to ignore these children who are in supposedly protective care. 

Our Association FONCA (Friends of Needy Children Association) in the course of fulfilling its limited aim of enhancing the lives of these children, regularly visits about 40 of these institutions. 

The conditions in them range from very good (for whom encomiums and prizes are readily bestowed) to the good, where children seem happy and well adjusted to their fate, to the bad and appealingly bad. 

It is the latter category, that causes concern, as in them children like Anusha are in virtual 'captive' care. They are condemned to live in overcrowded, near derelict buildings, depend for their food on the variable goodwill of people who provide danas. For the rest of the time regular, nutritious meals seem to have the least priority! 

As election fever sweeps across the country, I wonder whether taking positive steps to redress this issue will even get a mention! 

Rita Perera

Keep that surname

A married woman acquires her husband's surname that ends only with divorce. 

The Divorce Decree specifically states "that the bonds of matrimony heretofore entered into between A and B and are hereby set aside, dissolved and annulled, and the woman may resume her maiden name and be restored to the rights and privileges to which an unmarried woman is by law entitled to and that of a feme-sole".

However, today we find several married women interpolating their illustrious fathers' surnames and demoting the not-so-illustrious husbands' surnames to second place. 

It is an affront to the husband especially when the husband is alive! Perhaps, it is permissible when the husband is dead! 

At the worst, a married woman could have her husband's surname followed by the prefix "nee" before her illustrious father's surname!

Derek J.P. Fernando
Colombo 12

Don't give pensions to politicians?

I am a retired public servant. I retired on the class I with a maximum of the salary attached to the grade. 

I contributed 4 percent of my monthly salary for 37 years. 

I am now drawing a monthly pension of Rs. 4593/- which is hardly sufficient to meet my food bill. A rice meal is Rs 35/= which I cannot afford. 

I eat stringhoppers from Jaffna hotels, as it is cheaper. 

I have to cut my coat according to the cloth. What a shame on the public administration.

I have to vehemently say that politicos shouldn't be entitled to pension rights within a short period of five years. Furthermore, they have not contributed to the and Pensions Scheme.

Politicians enjoy five figure salaries in addition to various perks such as duty free Pajeros, body-guards, free air - travel etc. 

All these benefits are at the expense of the rate-payer who is burdened with the rising cost of living.

I regret having voted for the PA in 1994.

J.P. Wickremasuriya

It's not suicide

We now find those supporting the aborted new constitution sarcastically sneering, "Mahanayakas approve of suicide."

It should be pointed out that when the motherland is being bartered away on the altar of corrupt power, then it certainly is the time for the Mahanayakas to take up whatever cudgel lies within their reach to defend it. 

The Buddhists were hushed into reverence at the "fast unto death" of the young Ven. Hadigalle Wimalasara because, being prohibited from the use of cudgels, he took the only course of action left to him. 

Even the Bodhisatta, who was against destruction of life - one's own or another's -sat under the Bodhi tree that awesome day, with the resolution not to vacate his seat, even though his skin and bones withered away, until he attained enlightenment?

It certainly looks as if - when selfless love motivates- suicide ceases to be suicide. It makes an about turn and bursts forth into life, pulsating with hope. Who would be mean enough to raise objections to that?

Prema Ranawaka- Das

What a place for a zoo!

On one of my recent visits to Badulla, I was happy to see how rapidly Badulla has developed. The newly opened CTB bus stand, the extensions to the Badulla General Hospital, super market complexes and the transformation of the once virtually abandoned "Wawul Park" bordering the Badulupitiya housing project into an attractive and beautiful garden park have given Badulla town a facelift. 

However, strolling along the Senanayake Park by- way, which serves as a short-cut to the city, I was perturbed at the conditions under which some birds and animals are being kept in a mini zoo supposed to be maintained by the Badulla Municipal Council. 

It is accepted that this mini-zoo serves as an attraction to visitors and kids who come to enjoy themselves at the adjoining Children's Park. But why are these dumb creatures kept in an environment not in keeping with the laws of nature? In the midst of the streets and congestion, I managed to get a glimpse of the pitiful state in which these creatures are kept. 

A solitary full-grown deer was tethered and dozing in the intense heat. Its neck-band had got tightened. It appeared to be thirsty and it seemed to be suffocating, but the little water provided was muddy as if it had not been changed for days. 

A rare species of tortoise were seen crawling on the parched earth looking for some vegetation or water. A few yards away, a spotted deer and three barking deer were seen resting uncomfortably in a scanty enclosure, while a falcon was trying to flutter its wings. 

In a wooden cage a mouse deer was drowsing while a long-tailed squirrel was seated on the cage perhaps lamenting over its prison life. A black-faced monkey seated on a dry branch with one of its hind limbs tethered was gazing solemnly at passers-by. 

The roadway along this park being very narrow with trees planted on either sides does not provide sufficient space for these birds and animals to live freely and move about. 

Apart from this, noise from the traffic on the Colombo-Badulla Road affects them adversely

As an animal lover I would like to reiterate that all nature's creations have the right to live. 

I appeal to the Municipal authorities to consider this from a humane point of view and have these dumb creatures shifted to a more congenial place in the "Wawul Park". 

Don Sarath Abeyesekera 

No 'parking' for hooligans

I was angry when I read the report on Horton Plains in The Sunday Times Plus of August 20. The picture showing the long row of vehicles or the "traffic jam" as it seems, is shocking. 

It is deplorable that the management of the park has allowed the situation to sink to such levels. 

I visited the Plains about fifteen years ago and on that day my group of four were among a few people "walking" their way through the park. We did see sambhur. What a beautiful, unspoilt place it was then! The situation today seems very sad. It has definitely reached crisis proportions. 

Drastic situations require drastic measures. There is no option. The park should be closed down immediately and indefinitely for visitors. Talk of depriving the common man of enjoying a natural heritage! Well! There is no choice, the common man himself has contributed to the destruction. The entire place must be cleaned of all the garbage, plastic bottles, sili-sili bags, cigarette packs, etc.

Let the place recover its balance. Give it a chance! In the meantime, an action plan for the management of visitors should be worked out. 

Explaining the uniqueness of the ecosystem in leaflets distributed to visitors would not be worth the paper they are printed on. The leaflets would only add to the litter. 

Stringent measures are necessary, such as: limiting the number of visitors per day, at the beginning drastically; entry tickets issued only through the head office in Colombo or branches in towns in the vicinity and not at the gates; parking, a good distance away from the entrance; guided tours within and strict prohibition of camping and cooking within. 

Most importantly enhanced entry fees, which would keep out the hooligans and the merry makers. The Galle Face Green is good enough for them. 

Let the future generations see Horton Plains as we saw it a decade ago and not as we see it today. 

Bryan Weerasinghe


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