|Letters to the Editor
14th February 1999
The state media has been highlighting the Tourist Board's proposal to transform the invaluable Seetha Eliya forest reserve protected under a number of Acts and Ordinances and of newly conceived sanctity, into a sacred area for Hindus from India. Articles in the State papers stress dubiously advantageous aspects of the proposal but fail to place any disadvantages before the public.
I was at a meeting held at Nuwara Eliya on December 28, '98 presided over by Dharmasiri Senanayake, Minister of Tourism, where diverse groups representing environmentalists, residents of Seetha Eliya, riparian users, farmers and cultivators using the water of Seetha Eliya Oya, a main tributary of the Uma Oya, Buddhist organisations and organisers of some political parties participated. One after another made logical and convincing presentations against the proposal and there was none to speak for the proposal.
The lone Tourist Board Chairman was the only exception. In opening the discussion he said that this was being initiated by the Board on the advice and recommendation of some Indian tour operators and private groups, though even Mr. Thondaman was against the proposal. At the conclusion, there was no doubt in anyone's mind that the Minister was convinced of the futility of pursuing his Board's proposal.
Surely the state media have access to the detailed record of the proceedings kept at this meeting.
These articles throw up many inconsistencies and implications of this issue. The proposal was originated by the Tourist Board. Thus if the meeting convinced the Minister that the disadvantages overweigh the doubtful advantages, there is no need for consultation with the President to drop his Ministry's own idea.
Secondly, does the government value the advice of some Indian tour guides and private organisations over the just objections made in the public interest and that of the country. The viability of this proposal has been established on speculative figures and not based on any reliable surveys. Is this backed by the number of Hindus from abroad who have visited this place over the last few years? If the Tourist Board has a genuine interest in this area, the right approach is to watch the reaction of the Indian pilgrims to this new found Hindu Mecca over the next few years even if they have to bring their own food as was claimed for the recent Pooja, a habit which these frugal pilgrims will in any event continue. During this period the statement by the head of the private group that "we want to take soil from Seetha Eliaya as a souvenir" must be closely monitored as these people will dig the entire hillside which is declared an "erodible area" under the Law, until the 30 acres are flattened out and any semblance of a forest reserve with its rich and rare fauna and flora, soon disappearing.
Thirdly, in the context of regular reports of efforts to Tamilise certain areas and vocations in the region, and the fundamental approach of Hindus in India towards Christians, it is a significant coincidence that some unknown groups have suddenly discovered a Hindu Mecca in Seetha Eliya although for 1500 years the Hindus in India have been blind to the so-called Hindu Mecca. If they thought this place to be the holiest of holies, the lack of massive concrete structures will not deter them from coming in their thousands and paying homage at the existing kovil to the legends, Ravana, Rama and Sita kissing the soil and seeking their blessings.
The media has also referred to the recent pooja held in Seetha Eliya. The three Mahanayakes and the 46 Buddhist organisations did object to holding the pooja on temple premises. This was precisely stated at the above mentioned meeting by the chief priest of Seetha Eliya temple.
It was later allowed, subject to certain conditions, as the Government Agent and the chief priest who had been misguided by local officials and others who were the front organisers, could not be let down on grounds of compassion. In fact Mr. Radhakrishnan, President of the Seethaiyamman Temple, in a written statement to the Buddhist organizations in the presence of the Government Agent declared inter alia that they are strongly opposed to the move of establishing a sacred area in Seetha Eliya and "would join with you to resist any move to establish a sacred area in Seetha Eliya with all the forces at our command." The full statement is available with Buddhist organisations for perusal by the media if need be.
Minister Mahinda Rajapakse had said at Badulla on January 30, that the P.A. Government had made immense contributions to develop electricity facilities in the country. Just a few days later the CEB virtually cocked a snook at the Minister by failing to rectify an electricity breakdown in the heart of Colombo city for more than three days. And that was the second time within a month.
On January 12 power supply to a section of Park Road, Colombo 5 failed. It took the CEB a day to merely locate the fault and two days to repair it!
Just three weeks later, on Wednesday, February 3, the power supply to the same area of Park Road failed once more, and even by Friday the man at the CEB Breakdown Unit, stated that they had not been able to locate the fault! He also placed the blame for the power failure on the roadside digging by the Telecommunication Department. There had however been no such digging on January 12 when it took three days to rectify the fault in the power supply.
On both occasions the CEB could not tell the residents who checked with the breakdown unit, the cause for the breakdown and the approximate time the power could be restored. Instead, it was a case of false promises made during the day to provide power at night, and made at night to restore power the following day.
On the night of February 4, a resident telephoned the Chairman, CEB in the hope that he would be more specific and helpful, and also in the hope that he would appreciate the plight of us residents, he having been associated previously with the hospitality trade. All that the residents received from the Chairman, CEB was almost despair as to why everyone was phoning him about it when the electrical engineers were there.
Maybe, if the Chairman did get his teeth into a situation where the CEB takes so long to rectify electricity supply failures and arrived at the means whereby breakdowns will be rectified promptly, this country may have been far better suited to move into the next millennium, to attract foreign investments, and to achieve NIC status.
It would indeed be time that the CEB is updated into a modern organisation with the capacity to detect, identify and rectify a power failure promptly, and not through three or more days.
A Park Road resident
I was indeed most amused to read the article under the headline 'Medical NGO pulling out," in The Sunday Times of Feb. 7.
Are you aware that this NGO took over the Mannar Hospital from Medicine sans Frontiers from January 1,this year until they were asked to stop work around January 10,without permission?
They have insisted on working in Mannar and had established themselves at the hospital without permission.
The question that arises is who is in control of our hospitals and are foreigners just permitted to take over state hospitals without permission and move into the war zone. Is it not a threat to security in the area.?
This matter should be investigated carefully and facts ascertained.
It is, in fact, a threat to national security if so called doctors are allowed to just move into the war zone without the approval of those responsible for security and health just because they have insisted that they should take over from Medicine sans Frontiers and their co-ordinator has been around since October last year.
We are made to understand that they are trying to get into the plantation sector. What is their modus operandi.? I am sure it would be worthwhile investigating this group and their activities further with security and the general well-being of the country in mind.
Well-wisher from Mannar.
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