Which way: Cure or festering sore?
There appears to be a co-ordinated and well-orchestrated campaign to 'cripple'
the on-going attempts by the Prime Minister to bring about peace in our
troubled land. Those responsible for this rabble-rousing must be given
short shrift by the government and maybe even indicted for treachery and
treason, before the real negotiations begin with the LTTE.
All earlier efforts to bring about a negotiated settlement were failures,
because of these undesirable elements in our society. The fact that such
people have held sway causing mayhem and dissension throughout our history,
is evident when reading any authoritative book be it Robert Knox's "Historical
Relation of the Island Ceylon" or any factual fiction (using an oxymoron)
written by scholars of repute, about the Kandyan kingdom, the Kotte dynasty
or any other period.
Most probably it is this flaw in our collective persona that prompted
Bishop Reginald Heber (1783-1826) to comment:
What though the spicy breezes
Blow soft o'er Ceylon's isle
Though every prospect pleases
And only man is vile
It is necessary to understand the meaning of at least one expression
on everyone's lips - the Memorandum of Understanding. This is merely a
prelude or preamble, rather like an introduction to a discussion. The fact
that there are signatories to an MoU is not an indication of its validity/legality
in a court of law. It is in reality a set of guidelines or framework rather
than a legally binding document.
It was in the past a business instrument used by multinational corporations
and commercial houses before acquisitions and mergers. In recent times
it has been used by international facilitators like the Norwegians to settle
similar disputes in other parts of the world. What is disheartening though
to those who prepare these documents in great detail, is the fact that
in the final analysis (more often than not) the negotiations fail at the
It should be our prayer, however, that the peace negotiations will be
successful and that Sri Lanka and her citizens will once again be treated
as men and women of culture as befits our ancient civilisation.
It is the belief of a section of Sinhala nationalists (who take great
pains to disabuse others that they are not racists) that the Prime Minister
has given in to the Eelamists. It has also been suggested that he has been
influenced by the Norwegians when giving his approval to the MoU. The fact
that he has mentioned that there will be a referendum and now as an additional
measure of reassurance a broadbased parliamentary committee to ensure that
the sovereignty of the country is not jeopardised, however, has fallen
on deaf ears.
It is ironical that the new saviours of the Sinhala race are the JVP
who were more sympathetic to the LTTE than even their most ardent supporters,
not so long ago. Their volte face is easily explained. They want power
at any cost, even of lives and institutions. Their philosophy and criminal
activities in the early '70s and late '80s are nevertheless fresh in the
minds of the people. It is unlikely that they would, despite their current
rhetoric, change their policy and stance as they yet pay homage to the
founding father of this insurgent movement, the late Rohana Wijeweera.
The choice before the people today is, therefore, very simple - a cure
or a festering sore.
It is well to reflect on the words of Abraham Lincoln during his second
inaugural address on March 4, 1865.
"With malice towards none; with charity for all; with firmness in the
right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in: to bind up the nation's
wounds; to care for him who shall have borne the battle, and for his widow
and his orphan, to all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting
peace among ourselves and with all nations."
Champagne and servility
I was shocked to read in The Sunday Times about the American Ambassador
Ashley Wills proposing a toast to the Prime Minister, G.L. Peiris and Prabhakaran
at the Amcham ball. America apparently hasn't learnt a lesson from September
11 but continues with its insensitivity towards the peoples of other nations.
Mr. Wills has forgotten that Prabhakaran is responsible for 60,000 deaths,
while Osama bin Laden with a mere 5,000 is not even on the charts.
If the Sri Lankan Ambassador were to propose a toast to Osama at a business
dinner in Washington he would have been shipped to Colombo the very next
day in an apple crate! But Mr. Wills need not worry about facing that here.
White people can say or do anything and get away with it. Such is the servility
of our countrymen.
Even more shocking was the fact that our business leaders who were present,
joined in. If this incident took place in India (a big if, because America
wouldn't have dared to offend proud India), the Indians would have walked
out in protest. But no chance of that happening here. It takes only a little
fried rice and a glass of wine for some of our business leaders to stay
put and grin, while being insulted. No, wonder the Americans regard us
But then it is unreasonable to be angry with America. After all Bush
didn't seek to sign agreements with terrorists. He annihilated them, something
our corrupt politicians and armed forces have miserably failed to achieve.
Where law fears to tread
It is common knowledge that two sons of Minister S.B. Dissanayake have
been involved in criminal acts. These are the possession of illegal firearms,
using firearms, disturbing the peace, attempted murder and damaging private
property. The law prohibits the possession of illegal firearms. The government
has called upon the public to surrender all firearms to the nearest police
Is it that the laws of the land do not apply to sons of ministers? On
New Year's eve the Dissanayake sons fired shots, broke tables, chairs and
damaged the property of Galle Face Hotel. They threatened the people and
behaved like criminals. They took the law into their own hands.The government,
even at this late stage, should take action against them.
Tips for safer ride in trishaws
As a surgeon attached to the Accident Service, I have observed that the
trishaw is the vehicle which is most involved in road accidents. Monica
de Alwis (The Sunday Times - February 17) states that the introduction
of meters would minimize the number of accidents caused by them. She states
that "dangerous driving at break neck speed would diminish" if meters are
While thanking her for her concern for the safety of the people who
use this mode of transport, I have to state that what she envisages is
not going to happen, and that there are other effective ways of achieving
We must understand why the trishaw drivers drive so fast and recklessly.
They do it to save time and earn more. By driving that way, they could
save 10-15 minutes from each trip, and by the end of the day, they would
have had an additional 2-3 hours. More time means more money. Let us be
realistic. Whatever we do, they are not going to change their driving habits.
So what can we do?
Passengers: Those seated inside cars, vans and buses do not have to
hold some object for support - let us forget the seat belt for the moment
- while pillion riders of motorcycles usually hold the rider. The trishaw
passenger should travel like the pillion rider, i.e. holding a part of
the vehicle firmly, but they do not. They even carry small children on
their laps while not holding the bar in front.
Since there are no doors that could be closed, and not even crossbars
on the sides, they are thrown out when the trishaw topples. The advice
I give to the public, is that they should hold the bar in front firmly
till the journey ends.
Authorities: Only one in every few thousand trishaws has doors that
could be closed. Others do not even have crossbars on the two sides. In
foreign cities, the spinning wheels at amusement parks have such bars that
are locked by remote control, before the spinning commences.
The trishaw owners must be compelled by statute to get crossbars fitted;
it would not cost more than a couple of hundred rupees to do so. I trust
the Traffic Police and the RMV would take some action in this regard.
Dr. Wijaya Godakumbura
Member, National Committee for Prevention of Accidents
Plea for allowance
The MLT trainees selected after a competitive examination held by the Department
of Health are not paid an allowance. But trainees in the supplementary
medical service are entitled to one.
This is very unfair as MLT trainees too need to spend on lodging and
The high cost of living aggravates their difficulties.
Hope the authorities will heed our plight and pay us an allowance.
Open this road too
A big thank you to the government for re-opening many roads that remained
closed for seven years. This has helped traffic congestion in the city
However, one road still remains closed, despite it leading to a private
hospital, causing untold hardship to many patients. Keppetipola Mawatha
which branches off from Havelock Road by the Ranjan Wijeratne statue, is
closed and cordoned off as a "high security zone". But interestingly, Wijerama
Mawatha which connects Bauddhaloka Mawatha with Gregory's Road, has been
opened to traffic despite being a high security zone.
It would be a great help to patients, if the stretch of road leading
from the statue to the hospital is opened and the security check-point
near Claessen Place shifted closer to the junction near the Senior Officers'
Mrs. A. De Alwis
Save the professionals
If the news on the resignation of Sri Lanka Tourist Board Chairman Renton
de Alwis (The Sunday Times, March 3) is true, then a professional has no
place in this country.
Politicians will come and go but we must have true professionals of
the calibre of Mr. de Alwis to do a job of work. Many a politician is putting
himself before the country and ultimately the trade suffers.
Words of a true patriot
Although I am a Sinhala Buddhist, I am an admirer of Fr. Marcelline Jayakody.
I quote below thoughts which undoubtedly show his patriotism.
"As long as beehives are there in trees and caves, as long as cows supply
milk in Ruhuna, as long as coconut milk is used to make curries, the country
can never be divided. As long as the sun shines lustrously over Isurumuniya
and Ruwanveliseya, as long as the lovers of Isurumuniya exist, our country
can never be divided."
Don't forget the rights of the foetus
This is with regard to the articles in the newspapers about abortions.
To argue that India and Bangladesh have already legalized abortions
and, therefore, we too should follow suit is irrational because there are
many other things in civil life which both those countries (and probably
other SAARC countries!) have done, but we have not followed.
India, from the time of independence, decided to remain a secular state,
and also to have a decentralized form of government, but Sri Lanka did
not follow suit. Pakistan, another SAARC country has blasphemy laws which
our civil law does not accept. One wonders why only with regard to abortion
laws, Sri Lanka needs to follow India and Bangladesh.
According to 'Matter of life and death' (The Sunday Times, February
17), one of the main reasons to justify selective abortions is that a majority
of the victims of rape and incest are children who are not in a position
to be mothers because they are still in their childhood. This is true.
However, we need to reiterate that without attending to the causes of such
social crime, to abort the foetus is even more criminal. Is it the rapist
or the innocent foetus that needs to be tackled head-on?
Another reason given is that using the available procedures in Sri Lanka
(scanning for example) when a mother finds out that the foetus in her womb
is "malformed and may die soon after delivery", she should have access
to abort such a foetus. It is particularly in this regard I intend to enumerate
briefly the main points of the official Catholic teachings on abortion.
The Catholic Church considers all abortions "abominable crimes", because
every human life is sacred. Catholics, also believe that every human being
is created by God in His own image and likeness. Catholics also believe
that God Himself embraced human life in the person of Jesus Christ. Moreover,
the fifth of the Ten Commandments does not allow killing.
It is in this sense that the Church teaches that the taking of human
life not only in abortion, but also in other human acts like murder, euthanasia
(mercy killing), suicide, direct killing in war... etc., are always and
everywhere morally wrong, irrespective of the circumstances and intentions.
It is in the same sense that the Church condemns the death of some 30,000
human beings every day in our world, due to avoidable reasons, due to the
repercussions of an unjust economic and political system.
The Church condemns abortion because she believes that it is a killing
of innocent life.
With regard to abortions, the most popular argument is that it would
be done only in a few selected, "deserving" cases. Such an argument surely
does not take into consideration that human life begins at the moment of
fertilization. It does not seem to consider that the foetus is also human
and has a right to life. It is here that the Catholic teaching differs
from many popular arguments.
Catholics believe that every human life is sacred and deserves respect
and protection from the womb to the tomb. Such a belief also serves in
protecting the most vulnerable members of human society, embryos, the old
and senile, the mentally retarded, those with Down's Syndrome, the physically
handicapped and the terminally ill patients. Therefore, the Church proudly
guards this traditional belief, and is very consistent in opposing all
forms of abortion, because in her eyes, it is taking an innocent human
However, there are two special cases when the Church allows an involuntary
abortion. That is when the mother's life is in danger. Using the traditional
moral principle of double effect, the Church allows the removal of the
foetus when the mother's life is in danger. One common case is a pregnancy
in a cancerous uterus (womb). In such a pregnancy, if the only available
medical treatment that would save the mother's life is the removal of the
cancerous womb traditional Catholic teaching holds that such medical treatment
is morally acceptable.
Here the intention is not the killing of the foetus, but the saving
of the mother's life. Or else, both the lives of the mother and the foetus
would be lost.
Another case where the Church allows the removal of the foetus from
the womb is when there is an ectopic pregnancy. An ectopic pregnancy occurs
when a developing embryo does not implant itself in the uterus, but elsewhere
in the mother's body, usually in the fallopian tube.
Such pregnancies pose serious threats to the mother's life because of
the danger of haemorrhage.
In some cases, it is necessary to resort to surgical treatment, i.e.,
the removal of that part of the fallopian tube (or any other part of the
mother's body where the implantation has occurred), along with the foetus.
While the Church acknowledges the pain, agony and other unforeseen burdens
that are normally forced on the would-be mother in a rape or incest case,
the Church says none of these could ever overwhelm the right of the foetus
Fr. Vimal Tirimanna