Letters to the Editor

16th September 2001

Tragic lessons

The Seeduwa rail-crossing which claimed 10 more innocent lives recently, continues to be a death trap with another disaster waiting to happen. Whatever the excuse the authorities may give, the primary reason for the major accident was the lack of a rail-gate for traffic from the Raddolugama/Gampaha side coming towards Colombo and Negombo.

The Kotogoda-Seeduwa Road used by thousands each day has only one level crossing near the Seeduwa railway station. 

As a resident of Raddolugama who travels back and forth on this road, I have observed that the rail gates at this crossing are broken at least once or twice a month and even more often! How does this happen when gates at other level-crossings are quite sturdy?

In fact, the gate that was repaired after the recent tragedy was broken within 24 hours of being put up!

This happens due to two reasons.

*The suicidal placement of two bus stands for buses playing in opposite directions - to and from Gampaha-Raddolugama and Colombo-Nugegoda - just 10 metres from the rail crossing on both sides. 

The bus stands being cheek-by-jowl with the crossing may have worked 20 years ago when vehicular traffic was sparse and not many used this road. However, with the Raddoluwa scheme traffic has increased heavily. 

Vehicles which follow buses get stranded on the crossing whenever a bus stops abruptly to unload or pick up passengers, causing a temporary bottleneck. When vehicles trapped at the crossing are threatened by oncoming trains, drivers are compelled to breakthrough the gates. 

*As there is only a single railtrack, trains unload passengers and shunt across the level crossing and back to the switching track to enable them to access the station platform in the desired direction. Instead of keeping the gates closed during this exercise, they are opened for half a minute and closed suddenly. This too catches motorists unaware. 

If the authorities had checked out the situation and taken the simple measure of shifting the bus-stands from the crossing, those 10 lives could have been saved!

At least now, action needs to be taken to prevent another tragedy at this crossing. 

Ajith G. Perera

When strangers became friends in need and deed

I am an Australian, who has lived in Sri Lanka for the past five years. I have travelled in over 30 countries but have found that there are few places as beautiful as Sri Lanka, and where the people are so helpful and friendly.

Last month, I was driving a van from Colombo to Hatton. Passing through Atulugama, just ten km past Avissawella, an on-coming bus, passing a stationery bus on my right, swerved in front of me, causing a head - on collision.

Those in the van I was driving suffered only minor injuries, but unfortunately, as the driver's side had been crushed, my legs were pinned tightly and I could not move.

I was amazed at how quickly people came to our rescue. Someone found a crowbar, and after considerable effort got my legs freed. Before I knew what was happening, I was carried to another van and rushed to the Avissawella Hospital. 

I believe some of the rescuers were from a nearby garment factory. At least one of the group stayed with me in hospital for some time. Fortunately, I was discharged as I had only minor injuries.

I thank those who voluntarily came to my assistance. This is a wonderful example of the friendliness and concern of the people of Sri Lanka and I appreciate their kindness to a visitor from another country.

Clive Stebbins

Take action against those NGOs

With reference to the letter "Stop victimization of Buddhist monks" (The Sunday Times of August 26), I request the newspaper not to let writers hide behind noms de guerre like 'Concerned Buddhist' when addressing issues of such importance. 

Our history clearly shows that no true Sinhala Buddhist did so in the past. It is of no use beating about the bush saying that NGO-funded organisations are doing this and that. Since of late attempts have been made to curtail the good work done by some organisations for the upliftment of our society, dubbing them NGOs. 

I myself have experienced this as we get involved in anti-smoking programmes and social work. When we visit, the first question we face is: "Are you from an NGO?" 

The public have a right to know about all NGOs registered in Sri Lanka, the addresses of their headquarters, and what type of work they are involved in. 

Meanwhile, any nefarious activities carried out by NGOs and why legal action is not taken against them should also be highlighted. 

Then the public will shun those NGOs. 

All good Buddhists must ensure that religious societies that function in temples are registered under the relevant authorities. This will help end irregularities. 

Pastor Lucky Olupeliyawa

Let's have our own international award

The grant of a Ramon Magsaysay Award in the Philippines to Pundit W.D. Amaradeva, in as much as it brings honour to Sri Lanka, draws attention to a glaring deficiency in this country's national scheme of distribution of awards. This is the lack of a comparable international prize in the name of an outstanding Sri Lankan, whose work most benefited humanity.

For example, both Norway and Sweden are relatively small countries. Yet, they wield considerable influence internationally, among other things, by being associated with the selection process of the Nobel Prize (particularly the Nobel Peace Prize) and the conduct of peace initiatives in various parts of the world.

Sri Lanka has a range of choices in respect of the selection of a name for the proposed award. One of Sri Lanka's great claims to international recognition has been the leading role it has played in the Buddhist world. Anagarika Dharmapala (1864 - 1933) towers over any other figure in the past century for his pioneering contributions towards the revival of Buddhism in Sri Lanka and India, and the spread of Buddhism in the West. Dr. Martin Baumann, a noted German scholar on Buddhism in the West, refers to Anagarika Dharmapala as ' the first global Buddhist missionary and the Maha Bodhi Society the first inter- or transnational Buddhist organization . The inauguration of an international prize under the title ' Anagarika Dharmapala Award for Promoting Moral Resurgence' merits serious consideration.

The late Prime Minister Sirima Bandaranaike (1916 -2000) has a strong claim to be honoured through an international award founded in her name. Women particularly in Third World countries find inspiration in Mrs. Bandaranaike becoming the world's first woman Prime Minister and in turn demonstrating that a woman can lead a nation upon assuming power through a democratic election. This is no mean achievement.

Dr. Ananda Coomaraswamy (1877 - 1947), the internationally acclaimed art historian and philosopher, is a towering figure whose work particularly towards generating a better appreciation of eastern art and culture deserves to be recognised by way of establishing an international award for cultural understanding in his name. 

The proposed award, it is hoped, would to some extent address the inequities inherent in the scheme of international awards emanating from Western countries. 

The Nobel Prize, in particular, has a distinct Euro-centric bias. Alfred Nobel, a Swedish industrialist, donated a part of his great fortune (earned from manufacturing and selling dynamite which he invented, and gun - running in various theatres of war) towards establishing the Nobel Prize for the purpose of rewarding human ingenuity in several specified fields. 

The overwhelming majority of recipients, however, has been European. Mahatma Gandhi, the universally recognised apostle of peace and ahimsa (non-violence ) of the 20th Century, was denied the Nobel Peace Prize for the simple reason that the Nobel Peace Prize Committee did not wish to embarrass the British colonial rulers.

The defining feature of the 20th century in political terms is the collapse of colonialism Yet the Nobel Peace Prize Committee was not prepared to view the freedom fighters from Asia and Africa as suitable candidates. 

The time has come for Third World countries to take a critical look at the fairness in the selection process of choosing candidates for international awards originating in the West. Their self-respect and dignity would be preserved if the Third World were to lobby a neutral international agency such as the UN to inaugurate a premier scheme of international awards.

Senaka Weeraratna

From darkness to light

Those on the top rung of the Ceylon Electricity Board would do well to take a long hard look at the February issue of the Reader's Digest. 

Here Sir Arthur C. Clarke predicts: '2002, first commercial device producing clean, safe power by low temperature, nuclear reactions goes on the market, heralding the end of the 'fossil fuel age'."

Well, 2002 is just three months away. Plenty of time to contact Sir Arthur and consult him on buying a suitable machine to deliver us from these blackouts. 

Sir Arthur is right here in Moratuwa,Sri Lanka.

The Minister concerned and the CEB Board of Directors need not pack their bags to go on a jaunt to see him. 

C. Harischandra Fernando

Spirituality, only way out

Sri Lankans are struggling for survival amidst war, drought, fear, calamity and turmoil. Running here and there for help and advice and awaiting peace will not help. 

The need of the hour is prayer and for all, especially, politicians to give up their sinful lives. The leaders and the people need to turn towards spirituality. 

Rev. Vedamuthu Joseph 

JVP on path of no return

The LSSP led by N.M Perera slowly and steadily grew in popularity upto 1970. But when it joined the SLFP and formed the government thereafter it was the beginning of its end. It lost the support of the people and was routed in 1977. 

Now the JVP is doing the same mistake. At a time when corruption and inefficiency are thriving in the PA, the masses were turning towards the JVP. It was gaining mass support fast. Unfortunately, it has messed up and extended support to the PA. 

In Sri Lankan politics, there is no place for a third force due to the manoeuvres of the major parties, the SLFP and UNP. Whenever a small party grows in popularity among the masses manipulation by the big parties, especially the SLFP would lead to its disintegration. 

Pita Kotte 

In the dark over talks

Due to the power crisis, the light at the end of the tunnel has been turned off temporarily. Due to the economic crisis, the light might be turned off permanently. In the event of the current political crisis continuing, the tunnel itself may be closed. 

I have seen and heard various political parties giving their own versions as to why the latest round of talks between the government and opposition broke down. May I suggest to the opposition that any such talks in the future should be telecast live over state and private television. 

This should be a pre-condition for the talks.

Then the public can form their own opinion, the opposition will get the opportunity to air their views and there will be no need for news conferences. A discussion on national issues should not be held secretly.

Julian Davis


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