Our people at large do not seem to understand the meaning of democracy I must congratulate the writer of the letter, “Didn’t his life matter? Shameful silence over death of Borella OIC” to the Sunday Times of March 31 wherein reference is made to my article the previous Sunday in the Sunday Times “Roads, Sri [...]


Letters to the Editor


Our people at large do not seem to understand the meaning of democracy

I must congratulate the writer of the letter, “Didn’t his life matter? Shameful silence over death of Borella OIC” to the Sunday Times of March 31 wherein reference is made to my article the previous Sunday in the Sunday Times “Roads, Sri Lanka’s Killing Fields”.

The people of Sri Lanka have been in a state of successive Government-induced slumber for over 70 years. Historically this is of importance to the ruling parties because had people been watchful and responded well to adverse stimuli the rulers would have found it difficult to govern the way they have done all those long years. The former have been brainwashed into a state of complacency that all is well when indeed they have been slowly falling from the frying pan to the fire.

The population at large does not seem to understand what democracy is all about. For the vast majority of people, democracy is unfettered freedom to do what they want. A good example is what I saw recently down a road in Galle. Two bus drivers travelling in opposite directions had stopped side by side and were chatting to each other holding up two rows of traffic behind them in either direction. Anybody who dared to toot the horn got a frightening stare in return.

Free education though in a devious way means tested and free health care. Even if substandard, people feel they are privileges they enjoy due to the goodness of the rulers. They are blissfully unaware that these are their basic rights. Successive governments have been struggling to rid the island of a simple vector borne disease like dengue fever that claims hundreds of lives each year for the simple reason that they have been unable to launch an effective and sustainable vector control programme. People do not know that it is their right to have a dengue-free country.

The rulers are talking about Sri Lanka becoming an economic superpower in the next few years which the masses would readily believe. They are oblivious to the fact that more than 15% of the population are below the poverty line defined as anybody earning  Rs 4166.66 a month while a recent newspaper report stated that the upkeep of a single Cabinet Minister, if I remember right, cost over Rs 300 million per year.

Television channels are full of musical shows, serials, young people’s chat shows and periodic news on how well the government is doing. These help the people forget at least for a while the problems facing the country. Strong nationalist ideology goes down well with the voters who are prepared to embrace it with open arms despite its pernicious nature. This group does not consist only of poorly educated and the economically challenged.

As the thinking power of the people is blunted they consider road crashes as something unavoidable or something happening even as retribution for a bad karma done during a previous birth. A coconut falling from a tree and injuring someone is a genuine accident. Even this is preventable to some extent by plucking all ripe coconuts every two months and not standing under a coconut tree with over-ripe coconuts on it.

On the contrary a person who sits in the driving seat of a bus will know that he may kill someone if he drives recklessly. Speed is the biggest killer and that is why in the developed countries there are millions of speed cameras in operation. It is scientifically proven that a pedestrian hit by a car moving at 30 mph would have an 80% chance of not getting fatally injured. At 35 mph, just 5mph more, this figure gets reduced to 50%. The bus driver knows he may well kill someone. A premeditated killer also knows he is going to kill someone.The latter knows who his victim is going to be whereas the bus man does not know who he might be killing. This is the only difference between the cold blooded murderer and the bus driver who would mow down an innocent pedestrian or indeed decimate a smaller vehicle with its driver and the passengers. This is why in the developed countries the so-called accidents have been rebranded road crashes or incidents and the act of killing a pedestrian or a cyclist by mowing him /her down, or indeed killing someone inside a smaller vehicle by negligent driving amounts to culpable homicide not amounting to murder. If proven, a long custodial sentence will be the result.

As far as I am aware a driver killing another road user due to reckless driving is not tantamount to manslaughter as per the Motor Traffic Ordinance or indeed the Penal Code and hence even the hands of a right thinking judge would be tied as to the sentence he could impose on the driver whose weapon unusually has been a motor vehicle.

Clearly the legislation has to change and new laws enacted to drag the errant drivers into the net to be punished appropriately. It is the prime duty of the people of the country to elect a Government that would uphold the rule of law and not interfere with the carriage of justice at all times.

Dr.M.M.Janapriya  Via email

How do you tackle the problem of traffic on our roads

Futher to the letter in the Sunday Times of April 7 by Ishan de Silva with regard to the traffic problem in Sri Lanka I wish to add a few more suggestions to the authorities to take contructive steps to ease the traffic problems in the country.

Sri Lanka is an indisciplined country where road traffic is concerned. So far the relevant authorities have been unable to control traffic in most of the cities during rush hours even though many steps have been taken. My suggestions  are as follows:

A. Motorcycles are everywhere on the road.They ride on the left, right and zig zag–blocking the path of many vehicles and causing many accidents. In some countries motor cycles are allowed only on the leftside of the road in a disciplined manner which improves the traffic flow. Errant riders should be warned first and fined.

B. In some countries during rush hours (few hours in the  morning and evening) traffic jams are controlled by allowing private cars bearing particular number plates on the road- i.e: those having the last digit of the number plate as odd numbers on one day and even numbers the next day. If drivers do not adhere to this rule, they are fined.

C. Tuk tuk drivers are the most indisciplined drivers on the road.They do not follow road rules as they have their own rules, making U-turns anytime anywhere. At traffic lights they overtake all the vehicles by using the wrong lane while blocking other vehicles on  the lane. Most of the time they drive inbetween vehicles on the lane obstructing both sides of vehicular traffic. The Police have to be more vigilant and nab these errant tuk-tuk drivers who break  the laws deliberately.

K.A.Dayaratne  Via email

Mitigating droughts and floods: The ministry in charge  must take the responsibility

While we were complaining about the hardships caused by the persisting drought through lack of water, and facing until last week regular power cuts and 24 hour water cuts, wild animals were entering villages in search of water and food, resulting in loss of life of both animals and humans. Little do our people realize that the opposite scenario will soon come when the very same people start blaming the damage caused due to excessive rainfall.

But the stark fact is do we really want to solve the problems of droughts or floods judging from the way we do things when the situation in the country is normal?

The responsible ministry is the Ministry of Irrigation & Water Resources Management, with the designation itself explaining everything both to the educated as well as the uneducated people of our country.

But it was one additional secretary of this same ministry who got headline publicity not long ago predicting that by 2030 this country will face severe water shortages and also blaming the government for not having a national policy on water.

Policy-making and taking decisions are the business of the relevant ministry and no one else. Unfortunately this same ministry has apparently  abandoned their prime responsibility and seems more interested in implementing foreign-funded projects for their benefit with perks such as lunches and dinners at five star hotels and foreign trips.

Eng. Anton Nanayakkara  Via email

Some thoughts on Christchurch

A police officer is pictured outside Masjid Al Noor mosque in Christchurch, New Zealand, March 17, 2019. REUTERS

The terrible massacre of innocent people in a mosque in Christchurch is more than heartrending. First, it was in a church in USA, then in a mosque in Philippines and now it is in two mosques in Christchurch. Of course, Buddhists will accept it as Karma.

It is only a matter of time before another massacre will take place as a retaliation for what happened at Christchurch or as a continuation of what happened at Christchurch.

Could the disaster at Christchurch have been prevented? I believe yes, at least it could have been made more difficult to execute. The mistake was that the New Zealand government and the people of New Zealand did not recognize that such a thing could happen in their country. To show solidarity and concern and protectiveness is well and good. But it should have been done before this incident occurred, by anticipating such an outcome.

In Sri Lanka, like in New Zealand different communities exist without any effort to understand each other.

Because nobody realized the danger of not understanding and not working together between the two main nationalities (races) in Sri Lanka, a 30-year war was fought with indescribable damage. The effects of that war are still with us. A similar war based on different religions is too horrendous even to think of.

May I suggest to the relevant authorities to think about this issue and act before it is too late.

A suggestion would be, say for Buddhists (I am not sure how practical it is) to invite people of other religions to participate at least as observers and try to understand each other during these meetings. The other religions can reciprocate and hopefully an atmosphere of friendship (or at least of tolerance) will develop between different communities.

May be (I know I am asking for trouble here!!) we can tone down the ever present loudspeakers in regular public demonstrations of Buddhist events so that other communities will not feel too alienated.

For me, it is the ultimate irony (I nearly said the ultimate tragedy!!) that when the ultimate goal of Buddhism is the ending of Samsara here and now which can only be achieved in meditation undertaken in isolation in your home (yes, I am doing it full time), the emphasis in society is to do everything other than that.

Dr. Asoka Thenuwara  Colombo

Deducting withholding tax from deposit accounts is unethical

About a year ago the Ministry of Finance issued an order to deduct 5% withholding tax from all deposit accounts in Banks. Technically this applied only to those receiving more than Rs 1.5 million as interest per annum. Unfortunately this last stipulation was not always communicated to the deposit holders by the banks. Only those who protested, as they were not in the category to be so charged  got their refunds. This surreptitious act, I feel was an unethical move by the Ministry of Finance.

Even though this move was presumably to pay back the gigantic  loans taken by the Rajapaksa-Cabraal axis of the previous government, it was unethical to withdraw funds from deposits in local and foreign deposit accounts without permission from the depositors. It is operational year on year and unless an appropriate declaration is made to the effect, it is liable to be deducted again this year too.  I am sure there are many whose deposits had this withdrawal effected, who are yet unaware. Many senior citizens would fall into this category.

Dr. Channa Ratnatunga  Via email

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