Letters to the Editor

22nd April 2001

Ruling on a recipe of fear, deceit and empty promises

Sri Lanka's contemporary political culture, far from being one where "the representatives" of the people react sensitively to the people's wishes, is one that is characterized by self-interest and tyranny. On the one hand there is passive resignation, on the other the employment of deceit and empty promises, the deployment of private armies and goon squads. The promotion of a fear psychosis by raising bogeymen in the north and in the south and other such devices seems to be the government's recipe for a clear run until the next elections.

The politicians of today see no purpose in catering to the needs of the electorate until the elections draw near. At this stage people receive an abundance of alluring promises and pledges pointing to a glorious dawn.

In this manner the People's Alliance government has beguiled the masses and hoodwinked them yet again to wrest power from the UNP.

The results of the 1994 and 2000 elections show that neither the politicians nor the voters seem to care whether election pledges are kept or disregarded. We still have the Executive Presidency with a palace looming large ahead of us. We now have 46 cabinet ministers with thousands of duty-free vehicles at their beck and call, hundreds of official and unofficial residences, hundreds of thousands of "security personnel" both official and unofficial for which a grateful public uncomplainingly foots the bill.

On the other hand, contrasting with promises that were recklessly broken, many unpromised 'benefits' have also been generously showered on the undeserving masses. This paradox of promising one thing and doing something else is another cultural aberration of Sri Lankan politics.

The value of the rupee has declined since 1995 from 50 per dollar to 86. This phenomenon has been window-dressed as financial wizardry by a certain minister from the hills. It is also touted as a boon to exporters of goods and services, especially migrant workers selling themselves cheap to the Arab world. The petitions and pleas of the import dependent consumer and small businessmen fall on deaf ears, the farmers and peasants no longer count as the country is gearing up to be a leader in the industrial world discarding its traditional role as an agro-based economy.

The one most crucial area that concerns not only the hungry but also the well-fed is that of the north-east war. Promise after promise has been made by the Minister of Defence and her deputy while a retinue of beribboned and medal-bedecked Generals and lesser functionaries have strutted with utter futility in the arena of war.

All this as the war chest (euphemistically called the defence budget) keeps burgeoning. We are told that victory is round the corner, but the corner seems to be rounder and rounder. In fact it is more like a circle, which is ever expanding.

Krishantha Cooray

Action of misguided zealots 

I as a Sri Lankan, would like to apologize to the Buddhists back home over the wanton destruction of the Buddha statues in Afghanistan by the Taleban. The Taleban seem to be in the same league as some Sri Lankan and Indian Muslims, who cheer the Pakistani team whenever there is a cricket match against them.

Buddhists should not judge Islam on the actions of misguided zealots. Islam does not encourage such acts of vandalism. 

Though tolerance is preached by all religious leaders, it is not practised by all the faithful. 

Mohamed Samoon

Think of the aging govt. servants

Administrative circulars issued from time to time by the Ministry of Public Administration, have to be incorporated in the Establishment Code. Circulars are important for the government sector to run smoothly. However, some circulars are not implemented due to the inefficiency of certain offices. One such is Circular No. 16/95. According to this any government servant on reaching the age of 55 can send in his or her documents relating to pension emoluments, three months prior to the date of retirement. Some departments have ignored this circular and public servants on the verge of retirement are inconvenienced. When the cost of living is sky-rocketing, it is vital to give effect to this circular for the benefit of government servants who are growing old.

Migara Parakrama

Let's have the long list of the bigwigs

When a person is elected to Parliament or even a Provincial Council, in addition to the enviable fringe benefits and salary, he is entitled to a computer, a fax machine, a typewriter, a vehicle permit etc. He is granted a loan by one of the state banks to buy a vehicle. 

However, these MPs may later lose their positions due to the dissolution of Parliament, death or on an election petition. But they or their next of kin will retain all accoutrement. Is it surprising then that the state banks are having liquidity problems?

Therefore, the public would be grateful if a list of politicians and government bigwigs who have taken loans under the "auspices" of the state since 1977, and which were subsequently written-off, would be published. This would placate the hoi polloi because when they apply for a small loan of even Rs. 10,000 they are subjected to many conditions and legal requirements.


No books, no English

The Year 6 students of Vivekananda Vidyalam in Trincomalee have not been provided the English reading book. 

The first term and also the tests are over and of the 37 students in the class only 11 have the reader.

Could the ministry look into this problem and provide the books soon?

S. Sangarapillai

All work and no play

The Education Department's decision to extend the New Year school vacation from next year is a relief to children. 

The students are tired and under great strain due to the expansion of syllabuses and home work given in bulk. A great educationist once said that children should be given the chance to link with nature because it builds up their feeling of harmony and compassion towards nature and their fellowmen.

The reforms focusing on activity-based education may be more effective than the earlier system. But if children are not given the chance to experience real life, these reforms would be in vain.

This year schools closed on April 10 and boarders went home on the eve of the New Year. They didn't have the chance to participate in the preparations for the New Year. 

There are many lessons on rituals and customs in textbooks, but the best lesson for the children would be to participate in them.

A.K. Lalith Kumara

Reconstitute Land Acquisition Board soon

The Land Acquisition Board of Review is defunct, as the appointment period of some of the panel members has expired.

Appellants seek redress by appealing to the Board and it is a matter of concern that its vacancies have not been filled. The Board should be reconstituted with a full quorum as soon as possible.

Appellants are inconvenienced, as the compensation granted by the Valuation Department is far too low, when compared with land values at the time of acquisition.

Bernard Jayaratne
Colombo 08

People are down and prices are up

The people of Sri Lanka are facing a do or die situation today. Essential items are very costly. The government which made many promises has not fulfilled any.

While the masses are undergoing a struggle for survival, President Chandrika Kumaratunga plans to put up a luxury palace for herself in Kotte.

When the public is burdened with price hikes, electricity, telephone and water charge increases, Ms. Kumaratunga has also appointed more than 85 ministers and deputy ministers, allocating millions of rupees monthly for them.

Today the country's tea industry is facing a critical situation.

Immigrant workers are harassed at the airport and forced to pay the Employment Bureau fee. The immigrant workers who help our country with large sums of foreign currency are not even given duty-free permits to buy vehicles. 

The government should take action to ease the burden on the masses.

K. Uthuman Lebbai

Don't harp on free education for all ills

With reference to 'Doctor No' by A.C.P. of Panadura (The Sunday Times, April 08), I would like to rectify certain misconceptions, which may be created. 

It is a popular ploy to highlight the benefit of free education received by the medical profession, when criticising doctors. Education is provided free of charge to all Sri Lankans from primary through secondary and right up to tertiary level, provided they are able to compete successfully for the available places. This privilege is available to students in any field. From the top executive down to the labourer, all are educated with the taxpayers' money. 

Thus, all Sri Lankans who have benefited from free education are equally duty-bound to serve their fellowmen. 

Thus it is unfair to make special reference to the benefits of free education that doctors have enjoyed.

We, doctors have done our best for our countrymen with limited resources. Ours is not merely a duty, but a responsibility as well. Our health statistics are comparable to statistics of developed European countries. Can the writer of the letter state any other field, which is thus developed? 

Therefore, is it not unjust to criticise the medical profession, which has probably been the only one to repay its debt to the country, with interest?

Special mention has been made of the requirement to serve the public day and night if the necessity arises. This is valid only if the patient visits a government hospital for treatment. 

What a doctor does during his free time is his business. While a doctor is duty-bound to serve his hospital patients, the selection of patients during private practice is left to his discretion.

When the writer's child fell ill suddenly, he/she should have taken the child to the 'emergency department' of a hospital. 

Drugs and equipment required to manage an acutely ill child are not kept in consultation rooms. Only the emergency department is geared to handle that. People consult consultants or 'professors' to obtain expert advice. Attending to an emergency in a channelling room is impossible even for a consultant.

A consultant should not be the first contact doctor. A qualified medical officer should make referrals to the relevant consultant after assessing the patient, like in all developed countries.

Unlike a known patient, assessment of a new patient demands more concentration and judgment. This may not be possible when the number of patients is excessive.

The writer's ignorance of such facts was demonstrated when he/she rushed the acutely ill child to a channelling room instead of an emergency department. The time lost in negotiating the lengthy queue should actually have been spent at the emergency department. The writer is indeed fortunate that it did not cause irreparable harm to the child. 

Dr. M.I.M Rayes


Return to Plus Contents


Letters to the Editor Archives

Write a letter to the editor : editor@suntimes.is.lk