Executive form of Government – a practical alternative I wish to add my comments to J. Abeygunawardhana’s letter (Sunday Times, November 25, 2012). The 1956 Act 33 made Sinhala the only official language. After 32 years, the 16th Amendment passed on December 17, 1988 made Sinhala and Tamil national and official languages and English the [...]

The Sundaytimes Sri Lanka

Letters to the Editor


Executive form of Government – a practical alternative

I wish to add my comments to J. Abeygunawardhana’s letter (Sunday Times, November 25, 2012).
The 1956 Act 33 made Sinhala the only official language. After 32 years, the 16th Amendment passed on December 17, 1988 made Sinhala and Tamil national and official languages and English the link language. Articles 22 and 23 dealing with Language of Administration were replaced. Twenty-four years have passed and implementation is limping. Every branch of the Public Service, the Police and the Judicial service should be manned by officers proficient in all three languages.

The Right to Equality, Sec 12(1), says: “All persons are equal before the law and are entitled to equal protection of the law.” To give effective enforcement to this chapter, the ordinary person should be given suitable legal support. The present approach to fundamental rights is an expensive business.

In 1980, there was considerable agitation and support for a National Government, but this did not materialise. Now it has shifted further and further away.

The late S. W. R. D. Bandaranaike expressed his considered views in an address on “Democracy in Asian Countries” to the Indian Council of World Affairs in December 1957. He said: “Democracy is a good thing, but I am not altogether satisfied that that particular machinery which developed in England is necessarily satisfactory to us.

Now I think in countries where you cannot be quite so certain of having a two-party system- where there are many parties divided on ideological grounds, political, economic, racial, religious, linguistic and so on – we cannot really hope at an early date to get two parties to divide on purely political issues. Then in such a situation, there must be some modification. I think. Some modification where all members of Parliament, whatever party they belong to, have some share in the executive work, although naturally the majority party will have the majority share.

“In my own country, we experimented with ten years or more with what we called the executive committee form of government. The Parliament divided itself according to the ministries into equal number of members in each executive committee. The executive met and chose its chairman who then became the minister of the executive committee.

Then the Ministers met and chose the chief minister, who became the prime minister. In this way every Member of Parliament, both backbenchers of the majority party as well as the Opposition Party, shared the executive work, and you avoided the bitterness and sense of frustration that is liable to develop not only amongst the Opposition but also among the back-benchers of the majority party.”

S. Thambyrajah,  Retired Administrative Assistant Local Government Service Kandy

Drivers in uniform and drivers of back-up security vehicles act as if they are a law unto themselves

Some of the biggest offenders on the roads are the men in uniform who steer the vehicles of the Three Armed Forces and the back-up security vehicles of politicos.

These young drivers in uniform behave as if the traffic laws do not apply to them. They blast their horns and overtake you and speed as if they are on a racetrack. Such insolence on the roads does not enhance the image of the armed forces.

The war has ended and the country has shown its gratitude in no mean measure to our gallant heroes, but this type of behaviour erodes all those positive sentiments.

As a matter of top priority the authorities must educate and discipline the drivers in the forces. The military officers who travel in official transport should also exercise control over their drivers and tell them that they do not have special authority to break the road rules.

We often see junior and senior officers sitting in their Jeeps and staff cars, oblivious to the way their drivers flout basic traffic rules.

Over to you – Commanders of the Army, Navy and Air Force.

Mahes Jayasinghe, Malabe

Speed fiends

A common sight nowadays on the road, especially during Parliamentary sittings, is the great urgency shown by the ministerial convoys of vehicles. The whipcrackers are the stunt riders in front on motorbikes, followed by the MSD vehicles blaring their horns, shouting at the vehicles they overtake, to make way.

This is an experience one of my friends had near the Welikada area. When my friend heard the blaring of a horn from behind, he knew some great personality was following and he moved his vehicle towards the pavement to make way. He did his best. Alas! When the front vehicle in the convoy was passing his car, he had heard an uniformed guy in the jeep using the choicest language he had ever heard. My friend meekly grinned.

These people fly with such urgency as if to catch a flight, but in fact they are attending to their normal activities. These so-called masters should advise their drivers and security personnel to behave. There have been several instances where these convoys have met with nasty accidents and several deaths were reported.

Lionel Caldera, Battaramulla

Outdated prisons system needs rehabilitation

Prisons and Probation Services are an integral part of the administration of criminal justice. In keeping with the modern liberal concept of rehabilitation, the Prisons and Probation component has rightfully been termed “corrections”, or “correctional services.” Some countries have even done away with the word “prison” and refer to such places as rehabilitation centers.

“Corrections” is a respected profession, especially in Western countries. Correctional services staff are men and women who have an aptitude for such work and are trained to look after prisoners with sympathy and understanding. The scientific classification of those sentenced and the enlightened sentencing practices of courts contribute to efficient prison administration.

In the United States, Corrections is a recognised social science discipline that goes hand in hand with Criminology. Most career officials possess university degrees in Criminology or Corrections.

Not long ago, Sri Lanka had prisons chiefs who were highly professional, competent and dedicated. nternationally recognised Commissioners such as V.N. Pillay, Priya Delgoda and C. T. Jansze directed prison administration along the correct path. It is unfortunate that the progress and momentum set by these worthy men has collapsed. The causes are complex and many.

It is time for a Presidential Commission to review all aspects of Sri Lanka’s prisons, including prison infrastructure, classification, security, selection and training of custodial staff, sentencing practices etc, and problems such as overcrowding.

Piecemeal solutions will only make matters worse.

Edward Gunawardena

Buses will be red, blue and yellow for a reason

We welcome the Government decision to paint public transport buses red, private buses blue and school buses yellow. This is nothing new in developing and developed countries. We are a fast developing country, and it makes sense that we are disciplined in whatever we do.

I once boarded what I thought was an SLTB bus only to discover that it was a private bus painted red.
No tickets are issued in private buses. We see this bad practice in SLTB buses as well. Passengers are not sure if they are on a public or a private bus. I wonder how much revenue the SLTB loses as a result.

Painting school buses and school vans yellow is a universal practice. It helps the Police to monitor these vehicles and check them for safety. We know of countless road accidents in which schoolchildren have been injured and killed because the vans they were travelling in were not up to safety standards.

B. Joseph, Wattala

Our children carry two burdens – studies and overweight schoolbags

It is a common sight to see children of all ages – from the nursery to the senior classes – carrying unusually heavy school bags. Even children under five years attending pre-schools carry overweight bags.

When we were students, we carried a few heavy books, such as Hall & Stephens’ Algebra, Workmen’s Arithmetic and Durrell’s Geometry, but we did not have to carry all these books every day to school. We followed a time table, and subjects were taught on different days, so we did not have to carry all the books daily.

It is time the authorities looked into this matter and set up guidelines so children do not have to carry heavy schoolbags daily.

Unless action is taken right away, the present education system will only produce a generation suffering from back and spinal problems.

Bertram Peiris, Battaramulla

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