|Letters to the Editor
21st June 1998
We celebrated 50 years of Independence on 4th February '98 from our colonial masters. Ceylon as it was then known, was the pearl of the Indian Ocean, where Sinhalese, Tamils, Muslims, Burghers and others lived in harmony, irrespective of caste, creed and colour. The hospitality of the Ceylonese were then well known to the outside world. People were always with a smile. Never a moment was a finger pointed at each other that he was a Sinhalese, Tamil ,Muslim or Burgher. We lived as ''machans''. The English language helped the people to be united.
Now for the last two decades the whole country is in turmoil. Innocent people, men, women and children are gunned down daily by the terrorists, whether they are Sinhalese, Tamils, Muslims or Burghers. Bombs are placed at vulnerable points, killing innocent people. Many are maimed for life. All these for what?
It is good to go down memory lane in time of crisis, to find out when the rot started. Power hungry politicians whipped up communal feelings for short term gains to come to power since we gained Independence from our colonial masters in 1948.
The political cry at that time was Fifty Fifty, Sinhala Only, reasonable use of the Tamil Language, parity of languages, free rice, 21 demands, rice from the moon, eight pounds cereals, employment for all unemployed graduates, unemployment allowances etc. were the slogans then. As usual the masses were gullible to these highly sensitive slogans preached by then politicians at election platforms. Most of these politicians were not honest and not concerned of taking the country and its people forward for prosperity and make Sri Lanka a real paradise island. We were then far ahead of some countries in the South East Asian region. These politicians only wanted by hook or by crook to come to power. Having been elected to form a government, they failed to deliver the goods and made a mess of everything they touched and ruined the economy of the country.
Prior to Independence, politicians of that era spent all their wealth fighting for Independence and the upliftment of the masses. They did not amass wealth after entering politics.
All political parties that were known from post Independence up to the present day should take full responsibility for the chaos, tension and turmoil that is prevailing today. Many of the leaders who preached communal discord may be dead. Their bones may now be turning in their graves as to what their actions then have caused the present generation of people to suffer today. In addition, the burden of the escalating cost of living due to the meaningless war in the North and East, makes things worse.
Time is running out and it is up to all political parties now to rally round the democratically elected President Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga to solve this ethnic problem once and for all for the present generation and generations to come, whether they be Sinhalese, Tamils, Muslims, Burghers or others, to live peacefully once again as brothers and sisters.
Forget party differences in the interest of the country and win the hearts and minds of all Sri Lankans.
It is only the Sri Lankans whereever they may be, all united, who can settle the ethnic crisis and preserve the sovereignty and unitary state of the country by pledging their support to the Government under the leadership of the President.
Prime Minister Tony Blair and the former Prime Minister John Major set aside their political differences to urge voters in Northern Ireland to endorse the political settlement on the British ruled province, in the referendum.
Why cannot the UNP join hands with the PA Government and bring about a settlement to the ethnic crisis and stop the meaningless killing of innocent people and the sufferings of the displaced people in refugee camps in all parts of the country?
The ethnic problem is the foremost question today in the minds of all people who want to live in peace in this beautiful country of Sri Lanka.
The Sunday Times of June 14, 1998 carried a statement made by the famous Mrs. Nelum Gamage who has accused me of making false allegations against her husband and herself during a speech I delivered at the R.I. Fernandopulle Memorial Lecture at the Maris Stella College on May 30, 1998. She claims to have been surprised that I said that she has come under investigation herself by her own department and that her husband was before the courts on charges of corruption. She then pretends to be astonished at my ignorance of the facts.
I made the identical allegations against Mrs. Gamage and her spouse at the Lalith Athulathmudali Memorial Oration in November last year and this speech was widely reported in most newspapers. At that time Mrs. Gamage did not deem it necessary to deny my allegations. Having maintained a stoic silence, suddenly this lady has woken from her Rip Van Winkle like slumber seven months later! Either, she has been truly asleep or her conscience has received a severe jolt.
My allegation that Mrs. Gamage was under investigation by her own Department is substantiated by Mrs. Gamage herself in the very same denial when she admits: Mr. T.A.D.S Wijesundera, Chairman of the Commission to investigate allegations of Bribery and Corruption and Mr. Rudra Rajasingham, a member of the commission commenced an investigation against me last year. And that is exactly what I said!!!
Further more in a letter written by the two Commissioners to Her Excellency the President very recently, given wide publicity in the press, my allegations are proved further.
"Your Excellency will recall the meeting we had at Temple Trees on 3.8.1997. This was consequent to repeated requests made from the beginning of 1997 urging you to fill the 3rd vacancy resulting from the demise of Mr. Siva Selliah and to replace the Director General, Mrs. Gamage, against whom we had launched an investigation."
Then the Commissioners proceeds to state: "Your Excellency has referred to the petition filed by the Director General in the Supreme Court and an undertaking given by the Commissioners to refrain from taking further steps on the investigations against the Director General. It was the Attorney General who appeared for the Commissioners and our instructions to him were to oppose the application vehemently so that investigations can go on with a view to bring the offender to book, which is the ultimate duty of the Commission. The Attorney General however , took a different view and settled the case stating that if we did not accept his advice we could take our case elsewhere! At no stage did we the Commissioners give any such undertaking."
And these two Commissioners, who were appointed by the President herself states further : "We who made an adverse report on you on the Director General were asked to resign with the attendant hue and cry whereas the Director General was given a promotion. Would this not amount to a travesty of justice ?"
My second allegation that Mrs. Gamage's husband was before courts on a charge of corruption, which she denies and admits subsequently in the very same denial, as she had done before. Mrs. Gamage says that she does not want to comment on her husband's case as the matter is sub-judice, which simply means that there is a court case against her husband, which is exactly what I said!
Mrs. Nelum Gamage's statement, riddled with contradictions and more contradictions is only a feeble attempt by her to whitewash her reputation.
Nowadays we observe that the alcohol industry is giving much prominence to publicise their products in an indirect manner, via sports, both in the electronic and print media. Last week, there were a number of photographs connecting sports with a certain beer company in a local daily paper. It is natural that youngsters go behind these "so-called" brand names of liquor available in the market. Especially, the manner through which the industry puts forth their indirect advertisements has an impact on the youth to a greater extent.
In most cases, alcohol is consumed in a sociable situation. Hence the industry is very careful in depicting the photographs of youngsters belonging to "western-styled", outgoing type, care-free, half-naked clan. But, what effect does drinking alcohol actually have on enhancing one's sociability? Most people who drink alcohol have the expectation that drinking will produce a pleasurable social environment. Some have the mistaken belief that alcohol is a "social" drug. However, if one tries to classify it in a more realistic view-point, alcohol is an "anti-social" drug. Another problem faced by the adolescents is the stigma and sarcasm that they encounter in the presence of users in "high" society. But the adults in the society should try to convince the youngsters that social poise and confidence can be gained by learning to talk with others in social situations without the use of alcohol.
Beer is the gate-way to other alcoholic drinks. Therefore we should be more vigilant on this issue and try to convince the youth the importance of being alcohol-free to remain in control of their actions. Further alcohol does not contribute in any way to promote happiness. In this respect media has a big role to carry out by educating the public, especially the youth, that alcohol affects a person's mental, social, physical and economic health!
Hence all members of the public who have the well-being of our youth at heart should lobby together against the advertisements which are aimed at deceiving our youth into the belief that alcohol brings pleasure, fun and high social status.
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