Letters to the Editor

6th July, 1997

Mirror Magazine


This inequality has got to end

Much has been written about the merits and demerits of the present electoral system and remedies were suggested in the newspapers . Nevertheless. Two of the most important aspects that need review are the lack of closer links between the voter and the M.P and the high weightage under the P.R system in favour of the thickly populated urban areas, to the disadvantage of the rural areas. At present six of the populous districts (Colombo, Gampaha Kurunegala, Kalutara, Kandy and Galle) have more than 50 per cent of the seats in Parliament , while the other 19 districts get less than 49 per cent of the seats, and thus the former could obtain a large slice of the budgetary cake than the latter.

The urban population thinks in terms of proper housing, water supply, drainage , quicker and convenient transport between home and workplace, and other such facilities.

The rural man's priorities are about irrigation, flood control, crop-pests and wild life damage, distance between home and farms, lack of approach roads or vehicles to move his farm inputs and outputs-in short those that affect his very existence. These conflicts of interest between urban and rural areas arise from the interplay of the expanse of land area vis-a-vis the density of population.

The Soulbury Constitution recognised this principle and in providing for 95 elected members (i.e excluding the six nominated), 70 seats were based on population and 25 seats were based in proportion to the geographical size of each province (i.e. one member for every 1000 sq miles of the province).

The 1978 Constitution not only eroded this principle but also conferred additional representation in favour of urban areas. Though it professed to be P.R. it provided for 22 bonus seats which were neither based on the size of the population nor the geographical size of such districts. It is therefore suggested that of the total number of seats in Parliament.

(a) half the number of seats be alloted to the 25 administrative districts in proportion to the population of each district in relation to the totals population of the country , and

(b) the balance half of the number of seats in proportion to the geographical size of each administrative district in relation to the total area of the country.Secondly, to provide a better and closer link between the MP and the voter and such problems, it is suggested that:- Of the total number of seats so allocated to each district-

(a) half the number of M.Ps for each district be elected on the basis of "first past the post " system of single member electorates (with provision for double member or treble member electorates in cosmopolitan areas) and

(b) the balance half the number of M.Ps for each district be on the P.R system of political Party lists, without any provision for bonus seats.

Thus , every voter would have two ballot papers, one to elect a member for his constituency and the other to choose a political party of his liking for his district .Voting could be held in one booth by placing two ballot boxes for the purpose .

"A concerned voter"


Lankan students beware!

Here is a very important precaution our students must take when they sign admissions forms given by British Universities.

Since the Inner London Education Authority was abolished and the Government cut the fundings to Schools, Colleges and Universities in Britain, all these institutions have to generate some amount of money as the Government gives only a limited amount.

Therefore most of the Colleges and Universities are desperate to take foreign students as they can charge as high as six times they charge from a local student. As a result some members from some Universities come to Sri Lanka and have open days and exaggerate their performances to recruit our children. Some of them bring forms with small print and when you sign these forms you are bound to pay school fees whether you study or not or even if you changed your mind to go to another College.

I have noticed in the past few years some Universities which were formerly known as Polytechnics recruiting students from Sri Lanka. A local student pays only 750 pounds for a class based Degree while a foreign student has to pay nearly 7000 pounds per year. Once you sign the forms and when you go there and if you feel that you have chosen the wrong University or the wrong course you can't change your mind and go for another university without paying the 7000 pounds you agreed. They will send you a court order to pay that. So students should be careful when signing the forms and should read the fine print which says you are liable to pay the full amount whether you like it or not. Read every single line and ask and verify. Always ask for written details.

A Sri Lankan


Stop this 'law of the jungle'

Recently, while visiting the Habarana-Minneriya forest reserves, I was informed of the presence of a number of elephants in the area. On inquiry, I discovered where to go to view Sri Lanka's largest concentration of elephants. But when I went, other than discovering a number of elephants, I discovered how people and not the animals went berserk! "Safari" drivers, tourists, visitors from nearby hotels and passing pilgrims all turn this sanctuary into a voyage of discovery for these wild elephants.

To my horror, I discovered that what prevailed was the "law of the jungle". These visitors drive all over the tank bed, they get off their vehicles and try to approach the elephants on foot and some even summon "Dutch courage" and are visibly quite drunk in their attempts to disturb the elephants.

I wish to draw attention of those who care, or those who have the power and authority to do something to change the status quo of Minneriya. A change is required, because before long one of these elephants is going to kill someone and the miscreants will never be considered the guilty party. The sooner this sanctuary becomes a National Park with a gate, trackers, rules and regulations and a reasonable charge is made for entry, the better it is going to be for both humans and wild animals alike.

Ranil Pieris


Shady deals?

There has been a surfeit of letters in newspapers paying high tribute to the Minister and officials of the Ministry of Industries with special reference to Garments - manufactures, exports and quotas.

No one can deny that the Ministry is definitely not functioning in the manner it did during the last regime where, all kinds of nefarious activities had occurred.

There were people in very high places selling quotas, factories with a small number of machines given huge quotas and such like.

All praise must be given where praise is due and I too as a small factory owner do heartily endorse most of what is being said.

There is a point I wish to raise, which the letters to the newspapers have omitted and that is a crime that is being perpetrated on the garment industry by some. The Industries Ministry from time to time advertises the availability of various categories and invites factories to apply for what they want.

A period of seven days is given before the closing of applications. This is done very fast and quotas allocated and the time limit given to expedite the shipment is very short, say a week or so. How many factories in Sri Lanka will have stocks of fabric readily available to honour the terms laid down by the Ministry of Industries? Just one or two as the time limit given does not permit import of fabrics even from India or Pakistan.

As mentioned, a few factory bosses ship to their own companies abroad on a freight-paid basis and with the connivance of unscrupulous officials process the deeds of shipment.

Everyone is now happy as the goods have been shipped and the most happy man is the factory owner as he earned the quota which is now his by right of performance.

This is a racket. Will the Minister look into this and will the Ministry publish who the offenders are and what quotas they have earned. Transparency is manifestly done if transparency is laid bare.

How many of the factories have paid ETF, EPF etc.? Is it true that firms with 100 machines pay EPF for a fraction of their workers, produce the proof of payment and thus obtain quotas?

Paying credit may be the payment for shady deals. I sincerely hope that it is not true.



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