Letters to the Editor

20th May 2001

Census should reveal all

The Government is planning to conduct an islandwide census in the near future. 

The minority communities allege that they are being discriminated against by the majority Sinhalese community in education, employment etc. 

The census will be an ideal opportunity to explore whether there is actually any form of discrimination of minority communities. 

When data is collected each person could be categorised according to his/her ethnicity and details such as level of education, employment, income and wealth could also be collected and tabulated. 

Then we should be able to get a clear picture (provided, of course, that facts are disclosed) whether there is any discrimination against minority communities.

The demographic data collected could also be compared with those of the earlier census. 

Then we would be able to see the pattern of migration of communities over the past 20 years.

From this data we will be able to see if any form of 'ethnic cleansing' has been done in some areas.


It's a hard road to school

Many teachers were recruited from the Kalmunai and Sammanthurai educational zones to schools in Akkaraipattu, about one and a half years ago. 

Some of these teachers are in remote schools and have to travel two to three hours by bus and also walk a distance to report for duty.

They also have to pass through many police and army checkpoints and undergo other untold hardships.

It is time these teachers are given schools in easily accessible areas.

The Minister of Education and the Provincial Director of Education, North-East Province should look into this matter immediately.

M.C. Mohamed Zakeel

Beware of pill bill ills

The report in 'Mind Your Business', 'The pill bill' (The Sunday Times, March 25) stated that laws are being contemplated to compel physicians to prescribe drugs by their generic names, explicitly banning trade name prescribing.

Looking at the general situation in this country where a pharmacist dispenses almost any medicine without a doctor's prescription, such a move by the regulatory authority appears to be short-sighted. The pharmacist will then be in a position to recommend to the patient, a brand name where he can make the maximum profit, irrespective of the quality of the drug.

It may be better for the laws to be amended to require the physician to write the generic name within brackets in capital letters after the trade name of the drug. This will allow the doctor to prescribe what he thinks is a quality drug, while the patient will be in a position to check with the pharmacist the alternative drugs available, their price, country of manufacture and expiry date. This will also ensure to a certain extent that the pharmacist will not read a doctor's prescription incorrectly.

Otherwise, under the new laws we might soon find med-reps chasing pharmacists rather than doctors!

M.P. De Silva

Protests must go hand in hand with discipline

University unrest is always in the news. The Reader's Digest published an article on this, with reference to unrest in American universities in the late 1960s.

The problem existed in all universities of the world at that time.

Youth have much to offer-idealism, generosity, dedication and service. 

But the last thing a society needs is indiscipline. Society recognises the validity of protests regarding burning issues. But protests disrupt the operation of universities. If the rights of any member of the community are abrogated peacefully, or non-peacefully such actions are to be deplored as a violation of everything that the university community stands for.

A university, should keep all lines of communication open, including legitimate means of dissent.

There seems to be a myth that university members are not bound by the law of the land. 

All members are subject to the duly constituted laws of the university community and also the laws of the land.

Without laws, the university is a sitting duck for any small group from outside or inside that wishes to destroy it. You invoke the law, the argument goes, you lose the university community. 

But without law you will lose the university itself and the larger society.

When lawlessness is afoot, and all authority flouted, then the normal forces of law have to be invoked. Action cannot be postponed. 

It has to be taken today in the interest of future generations. 

V.K.B. Ramanayake

Selling media freedom

The wings of freedom were clipped again recently at the Empire Ballroom of the Mount Lavinia Hotel.

There is a thinking within the tobacco industry, both nationally and internationally that the media should behave and act in a manner favourable to them. To achieve this objective, in recent years they have done whatever possible and offered lucrative opportunities to media personnel.

Both the Tobacco Company and the alcohol industry have been engaged in sponsoring award ceremonies for media personnel in the last few years. Those who have already received awards and those who hope to receive awards from them behave and act in a manner favourable to them. Obtaining awards from the tobacco or alcohol industry is similar to mortgaging the freedom of the media to the two industries.

This tendency has been observed in the past few years. It is regrettable that journalists who demand media freedom sell their freedom to the tobacco and alcohol industries. 

Ceremonies to recognise the services of journalists such as the Excellence in Journalism Awards should be held with the sponsorship of media institutions only.

Manjari Peiris

Playing dirty games?

The definition of sport in the dictionary is "a game, a jest, a mockery". What does it mean to sportsmen and sportswomen all over the world - a jest, a mockery and of course a drama. When the curtain comes down, participants receive fabulous prizes.

Recently I was perturbed to read that cash prizes were awarded to outstanding players after an inter-school match. Aren't the authorities encouraging youngsters to indulge in liquor and nefarious activities, by giving them cash?

Needless to say that sportsmen who have brought honour and glory to the country should be recognised and rewarded. However, they should not be given cash, only sports gear.

Gear up, Sports Ministry, the ball is in your court!

Richy Jacob
Mount Lavinia

Give these students some breathing space

The provisional time-table for the G.C.E. Advanced Level Examination in August, was published in the newspapers recently.

The examination dates for science students are: August 4 - Biology I; August 6 - Biology II; August 7 - Physics I; August 8 - Physics II; August 22 - Chemistry I and August 23 - Chemistry II.

This seems unfair by the students who are in the science stream. 

While the examination is spread over August, biology and physics are virtually on four consecutive days, with a two-week break before chemistry. Surely, is it not possible for those who set the time-table to be more reasonable and give a decent break to students between subjects? For example, could not the physics paper be conducted on or about August 12 and 13 so that between subjects the students will have gaps of about a week? 

If the papers have to be conducted on a day-to-day basis, the provisional timetable can be understood. But when the examination is spread over a month, why cannot there be intervals between subjects? It is not only the students but also the teachers who have complained about the time-table. 

Hopefully, the administrators will look into this matter and be fair by the students.

Over to you Commissioner of Examinations.

Concerned Parent

Honest and conscientious

On that fateful Saturday morning, I heard the shocking news of the murder of our colleague, Sujith Perera. I rushed to the Police Morgue and found Sujith lying on a stretcher with blood all over his face. A brave man silenced by a single bullet.

Sujith began his customs career in 1989 and joined the Preventive Office, the main enforcement arm of the Sri Lanka Customs, in 1993. It was here that he developed his investigative skills to become an excellent investigator. He cracked down on complex commercial frauds and detected vital clues while perusing documents.

He was sent to the United States in 1998 on an investigation mission, where with the assistance of the US Customs, he acquired the necessary evidence against a massive smuggling racket involving several American and local companies. His excellent investigative skills so impressed the U.S. Customs officials that they even went to the extent of writing commendations to the Director General of Customs. 

During my tenure as the Chief Preventive Officer, I had the opportunity of working closely with Sujith, who was a Senior Assistant Preventive Officer in charge of the investigation unit. He was an extraordinary person who was fearless in dealing with smugglers and unscrupulous importers. 

He was a person who did not work for commendations or rewards. His aim was to do his job well. This earned him many enemies and eventually he had to pay with his life at the young age of 34.

Sujith's, death is not only an irreparable loss to the department but also to Sri Lanka. To his parents, wife and baby daughter, it is an unbearable heartache.

Gamini Warshapperuma


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