I congratulate you on your editorial in The Sunday Times of January 26 under the caption "Greasy Poll". Your comment "Just look at the local councils - most of them are a shame - dens of corruption and incompetence," is very well appreciated.
It is a fact. And your reference to the Colombo Municipal Council; "If the Colombo Municipal council is supposed to be the premier local body in the country, then its performance hardly lends itself to emulation by smaller bodies," is absolutely correct.
Just see the Kirulapone super market which has been put up by the Colombo Municipal Council. The construction work was completed in 1995.
The Municipal administration called for tenders for the allocation of stalls on this supermarket in the early part of 1996 and up to date the supermarket has not been opened. No one seems to be worried about it. What a loss of revenue to the Municipal Council by way of rent on the stalls!
We have the Provincial Councils overlooking the local bodies. What is the Western Province Provincial Council doing about this? No one seems answerable.
As you have stated in your comment the PR system in local government has resulted in a situation where the people don't know who their ward member is. This is true in the case of Parliament as well. People do not know their representatives. You would do well to agitate for the abolition of the P.R. system altogether.
As Provincial Superior of the Oblate Fathers and Brothers of the Sri Lanka Province, I am grateful to you for the publicity given to our communique of January 21 published in The Sunday Times of January 26 in the matter of Fr. Tissa Balasuriya's excommunication.
I would however like to make a clarification or two to avoid misunderstanding. The communique was issued after a meeting of the Oblate Provincial Council which is the Executive Committee of the Oblates in the South.
There is another Vice Province in Northern Sri Lanka.
This Committee met with a group of theologians who act in a technical capacity and are called the 'Oblate Theology Circle.'
The Communique does not evidently reflect the opinion of each and every Oblate in the Province whose number is about 130 Priests and Brothers and 40 Seminary Students.
Each Oblate is entitled to hold its own opinion in the matter of the excommunication of Fr. Balasuriya while respecting the stand taken by the Council and Consultors.
I hasten to send this note to state that the report in The Sunday Times of January 26 under the headline 'PERC in the cockpit' is incorrect and some of the references made to me are also incorrect.
On Friday, January 24, the Secretariat of the PERC received a telephone call from a journalist of your office who wanted to check whether AirLanka has been taken over by PERC. When I heard about this inquiry I immediately phoned the journalist and said there was no truth whatsoever in that story since PERC never takes over management of enterprises that are being reformed. It is indeed regrettable that this denial is not even mentioned in the news report.
In the telephone conversation I was asked by your journalist to comment on the fears of AirLanka employees on possible retrenchment and I replied that retrenchment is not possible since the Government provides for safeguards in the Agreement with the Investor. Questioned further on this, I said only voluntary resignations and retrenchments were the exceptions allowed under the Agreement where all parties have to agree on the conditions of such terminations. Hence, to state that AirLanka employees who voluntarily offer to quit would be given special compensation is a misrepresentation of facts.
The news item 'Passport Men reach out to Vavuniya' in The Sunday Times of January 19 is commendable.
The officials of the Immigration & Emigration Department are rendering a valuable service to the suffering people in Vavuniya. However there are some officials who join with the thugs outside to give unnecessary hardships to people.
The bribery and corruption prevailing under the very nose of the hierarchy as well as outside the Department's building in Colombo is blooming rapidly today. The applicants who come from far away places are made to suffer untold hardships.
Although Rs. 3000/- is charged per person for a Passport for all countries on the same day the applicant is kept from 9 am till 7.30 p.m. or even later than that. The crowd is such that the applicant is forced to leave the premises once the Passport is handed to him or her.
It is only after taking it home that the applicant detects that some pages are missing or that the wrong Passport had been issued to the applicant; e.g. an application made to the Controller on 22.01.1997 for all countries was issued as a Passport to Middle East Countries. If evidence is required for a genuine official inquiry I will get very responsible persons of this country to support my statement.
It is also noted that all persons entering the Immigration & Emigration Dept. are fully checked by the Security personnel.
Then it is very strange to see a large number of touts controlling and monopolising the selling of Passport application forms at the rate of Rs. 30 (thirty) each openly. At the same time unknown characters approach the applicants and demand Rs. 1000/- (One Thousands only) if one wants to get the Passport on the same day quickly.
One cannot make any complaint to any official as all the entrances are guarded by 'official thugs' who are very rude and unkind to the members of the General Public and they do not allow anyone to pass the gate. This is the sad situation in the country of ours today.
Elections are "round the corner" once again and with them the pledges such as righting all wrongs and promises of doing everything possible to preserve the sanctity of our country, race, religion and culture. Shouting these out from platforms will not suffice. What we need is a translation into reality especially when the reputation of Sri Lanka is being tarnished 'left, right and centre' by foreigners masquerading as tourists whose contribution, according to them is a massive one to prop up the tottering economic instability of 'poor Siri Lanker'.
We have fallen a prey to this guile. It is time for us to open our eyes. "Our nation has more self-respect than to sell itself for a mess of pottage". 'Free the nation which is virtually bound and gagged by the present unbridled sexual exploits of foreign tourists. Save our children who should be our hope for the next generation. Morality should prevail above all else, money notwithstanding'.
Let this be the clarion call of every party, or the country will be able to judge those who ignore this vital aspect as traitors and people without consciences who will be the least deserving to be given the reins of government. The heart of the nation will continue to bleed until firm and determined action is taken to pull it out of a depraved and humiliating situation.
To all those who would give ear to this plea and decide that there is something deep and convincing in it, we would say, "Bhavathu Sabbha Mangalam" in the words of the Dhammapada - Verse 6.
I am the father of two sons aged 18 and 16 and a 'little one' of 6.
The stretch of road from Kurunegala to Wariyapola until recently had been very beautiful with majestic Mara trees of colonial days on either side, planted by the Britishers. These giant trees, over 200 years old were very big, majestic and over 60 feet tall. The girth of a tree would have been more than 15 feet. They gave shade to the road users [including the bulls tied to the carts in this poverty stricken area], and the road was a beautiful sight to the eye! The canopy of the trees was a haven to the birds of the air.
The Road Development Authority has recently started widening this road, uprooting all the trees amidst protests from the local population, who are helpless when powerful people are involved. The contractors cut down the branches, felled the trees and took away the timber. A beautiful, priceless tree which took 200 years to grow was cut down within two days and the timber was quickly spirited away by human vultures.
To my knowledge there was only one road which was similar to this road in Sri Lanka. That is the Chilaw-Wariyapola Road which had a beautiful tree canopy. Unfortunately, those majestic trees were also cut down by the Ceylon Electricity Board somewhere in the 70s in the name of "development". Thurstan Road is a poor substitute.
Road widening has now gone up to Maspotha which is about seven miles from Kurunegala town. I saw the widened road recently. The tarred area of the road does not cover the extra space taken by removing the trees. That extra space is just a road reservation! Hence it appears that this is a deliberate manipulation by someone to cut down the trees and take the timber.
This is not a busy road to be widened. Even if the road has to be widened, it does not require widening on both sides, particularly because of these trees. At least one line of trees could have been saved. Human greed for money has no limit! We have axed down the trees which gave shelter even to the axeman.
It was reported recently that the Minister of Agriculture, Lands and Forestry has banned felling of jak, bread-fruit and palm trees.
I cannot understand why the Minister could not stop felling of these giant Mara trees.
More letters to the editor - Not done sir * Sad for the whole Church * Sirima-Shastri Pact * May truth prevail in Sri Lanka * We'll wake up when the time is ripe
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