People’s Forum column is back In response to numerous requests, the Sunday Times is restarting the People’s Forum column. If you have any issues, delays or problems concerning NICs, pensions, driving licences or other such matters dealing with public service departments, we shall be happy to assist you by taking it up with the relevant [...]

The Sundaytimes Sri Lanka



People’s Forum column is back

In response to numerous requests, the Sunday Times is restarting the People’s Forum column. If you have any issues, delays or problems concerning NICs, pensions, driving licences or other such matters dealing with public service departments, we shall be happy to assist you by taking it up with the relevant authorities.

Please write in to us stating your problem briefly, including your communication, your contact number or email address. However, your anonymity will be maintained if requested. Send in your letters to:

The People’s Forum
c/o The Sunday Times
No 8, Hunupitiya Cross Road,
Colombo 2


Open letter to my fellow Buddhists: A plea from the heart

The Buddhist philosophy as expounded by the Buddha teaches us to focus our thoughts on peaceful living, using wisdom (gnana) and compassion to guide us in our activities. Encouraging free inquiry and practising tolerance are among the first lessons that we, as young Buddhists, were taught.

Being deeply influenced by my parents and the saintly members of the Sangha such as the late Sri Vajiragnana Thera, Rev. Narada Thera and more recently, Ven. Madihe Pannasiha Thera, on proper conduct, it was with absolute disbelief and shock that I watched recently a video clip related to the Aluthgama incident.

The rhetoric, tone and body language used by the monk were most unbecoming and certainly had no place in Buddhist teaching. Such behaviour totally undermines Buddhist values.

The role of a Buddhist monk as it was in the past , and will no doubt, revert to in the future, is to guide people wisely and maintain the sanctity of the temple to which everyone would naturally turn to for correct advice and spiritual advancement.

I feel certain that every true Buddhist will agree with me that monks involving themselves in politics must be discouraged forthwith. They should be asked to return to the lay life, return the holy robes to the temple and then as ordinary citizens resume their political activities, if that is their priority. That act of honesty would gain them some degree of respect.

Let us true Buddhists make a big effort to change this trend. Mothers, regularly discuss these issues with your children so that they may know the proprieties expected from the Sangha. Avoid contact with errant monks and give your attention to genuine monks. No violence, no vituperative speeches — it will only inflame passions further. Practise strict passive resistance towards errant monks and let us together create the change that we passionately long to see.

Indrani Athukorale
Colombo 3


Floods in Colombo: These remedial steps will only make matters worse

I was shocked to read part of a report called, “Proposed Remedial Measures for Floods in the City of Colombo” to be presented to the Defence Secretary and the World Bank to obtain funds for the implementation of a drainage management plan for the City of Colombo dated March 2010. I can only say “God have mercy on the people of Colombo” even by accident if the World Bank accepts this report of March 2010 as a comprehensive report on this subject.

As the team leader for the Cabinet approved study of Kelani Ganga (Left Bank) dated April 2009 it is my responsibility to state that this report was done under uncongenial conditions created by the then Sri Lanka Land Reclamation and Development Corporation (SLLR & DC).

This report (2009) submitted under my signature as Team Leader offers the most comprehensive, most environmentally friendly and cost effective solution to save Colombo from the catastrophe waiting to happen if the World Bank even accidentally agrees to fund this project of March 2010.

This report of 2009 does not require a new Mutwal Tunnel while there is already an existing Mutwal Tunnel once claimed to be the most reliable sea outfall for Colombo that is free from sand bar formation as against the cases of Wellawatte and Dehiwela. It does not require a trans basin diversion to drain Madiwela water all the way at Panadura, reversing the natural direction of the flow and ignoring the environmental impact assessment to the surrounding areas which includes a bird sanctuary through which this canal will flow and ignoring the sea front and the many outfalls from Galle Face up to say Mount Lavinia prior to reaching Panadura, many miles south. It simply deals with three technically sound separately identifiable catchments (north, south , and east) and not dozens and dozens of subdivisions each costing many millions of rupees all put together.

On the contrary the Cabinet Approved Study opens up many new lands for city expansion, new water front, new outfalls, a ring road for the City of Colombo joining the outer, circular road, solution to the shanty problem, all supported by a report from a London based consultancy firm done at no cost to the government which had been studied by all relevant ministries and departments prior to approval given by the then UDA Chairman Prof. Nimal de Silva.

It is the writer’s intention that this brief letter will reach the attention of the Defence Secretary, Harsha de Silva, Chairman SLLR & DC and the President of the OPA and the IESL, also the Director General of Irrigation, all of whom have knowledge of what is going on before it is too late to do anything.

Eng. Anton Nanayakkara Battaramulla


Minimising productive time spent in courts

We waste a lot of time in court rooms. Time spent in courts could be utilised for productive purposes. Litigants are summoned to courts at 9 a.m. and wait till their cases are called. This may be in the afternoon. Why can’t they be given staggered times?

Further, in minor offences such as traffic offences most people plead guilty. Should they attend courts? The practice in many Western countries is that when summons are sent for traffic offences, they include two forms A and B. If the offenders want to plead guilty, they will have to fill the form A and courts will inform them of the fine and method of payment by post; and if they wish to contest the case, they should fill form B and they would then be given a time and date to attend courts.

There could be many more ways of simplifying court procedures to minimise time spent in courts. Apart from time saved there could be savings on legal expenses and transport. Further court room congestion and postponement of cases too could be reduced.’

A. G. Weerasinghe
Via email


Biyagama Road widening adds to residents’ problems

The widening of Biyagama Road from Peliyagoda to Kelaniya has been completed. But drains about four feet wide and three feet deep have still not been covered with concrete slabs though the constructors have done so outside entrances to houses.

Many pedestrians have fallen into these open drains in the night. Besides, they are now clogged with water, with weeds fast growing and mosquitoes breeding, while garbage, freely thrown to the drain, adds to the environmental pollution. The Road Development Authority should immediately attend to these shortcomings.

Another problem facing the residents of this area is the mushrooming container yards, repair shops and eateries. One wonders whether they abide by council laws. Containers trucks, heavy vehicles and even motorcycles and three-wheelers are often parked along the pavements outside these yards and shops, some of which have encroached on to the pavement. Some makeshift shops that have come up on the pavements have fixed name boards though they do not have licences from the Pradeshiya Sabha.
The relevant authorities should intervene and help the residents find early redress before matters go out of control.

Ernest Perera


Right to free education and the ministry’s wrong answer

A decision has been taken by the Education Ministry not to admit GCE Ordinary Level qualified students from international schools to follow GCE Advanced Level in state schools. This is a blatant violation of the right to education guaranteed by the Constitution. It is the responsibility of the government to safeguard this right. But instead the ministry has done the opposite.

The ministry should understand that although education is provided free in state schools, it is sustained by the taxes paid by all citizens, including those parents whose children study in international schools. Therefore they also have the right to obtain education in public schools. It is wrong to deny them their basic right.

The ministry should also understand why some parents send their children to international schools. It’s not that they have enough money at their disposal. Rather it is because they want their children to get quality education in English in these international schools.
Another factor is that even if they send their children to public schools, the parents have to bear various costs such as contributions to various school funds, fees, transport and, most of all, private tuition as many state schools do not provide quality education.

It is sad that the ministry has taken a decision without considering these aspects. Taking such a decision suddenly has created confusion among parents as the previous practice has been otherwise. If the Government wants to implement a decision such as this, the parents should be given warning at least three years before, so that they will decide whether to send their children to international schools .

Important decisions should be made after considering the past, the present and the future carefully and analysing the present system thoroughly. This iss called evidence-based decision making which is the scientific way of doing it. The opposite is opinion-based decision making which is merely an opinion of somebody and usually goes wrong. This is such a decision where somebody’s opinion has become a national problem.

If the Health Ministry adopts a similar policy, thousands of patients who are transferred from private hospitals to public hospitals daily will have to be turned away.

Education and health are noble territories that were given free to us by far-sighted leaders in the past. This should not be meddled with haphazardly.

This reminds me of the saying “fools rush in where angels fear to tread”.
L. Gamlath

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