|Letters to the Editor
28th March 1999
Telephoning while driving could be considered as dangerous as drinking and driving and that is something that should be taken serious note of by the authorities and even insurers. What I saw recently was unimaginable.
The driver - an owner-driver - was driving in peak hour traffic along Galle Road, between Bambalapitiya and Kollupitiya, for quite a distance, with a lighted cigarette between the fingers of his left hand while holding the steering wheel, and a hand phone against his ear with the other hand. To cap it all, a child was seated next to him! Although the driver was wearing a seat belt, the child was too small to get into one.
There seems to be a school of thought that ignorance of traffic laws is responsible for offences of Sri Lankan road-users. It is however, hard to believe that the owner driver concerned was ignorant of the law. On the contrary, it seemed downright indifference to the law, and one could only connect it with the driver's mental make-up, which made him ignore the law.
It would be too much to expect the police to spot every motorist who is guilty of similar offences. In the words of the IGP himself, there can't be a policeman behind every bush, and he could not have been more correct. There is, however, one thing that could be done about it, with the cooperation of bona fide members of the public. If such cases are reported to the police giving the vehicle numbers, time, and place of occurrence, police could contact the offender and at least make him aware that he has been observed, and that the police have made a note of it too.
If motorists are made aware that such complaints by the public are given due cognizance, the former are likely to be a bit more careful.
The Archaeological Department is seriously failing in its duty to the general public by not publishing the important Annual Administration Reports. The last Report appeared in 1968. Since then, for 30 years, no Report has been published.
From 1890, since the official inauguration of this important Department under that brilliant and indefatigable chief, H. C. P. Bell, a rich tradition was maintained and the Department became famous owing to the detailed, lavishly illustrated and scholarly Archaeological Survey Annual Reports. It was indeed a delight to read through these beautiful reports. This position, with somewhat fluctuating degree of balance was sustained upto 1968. Thereafter no reports have been published and placed before the general public todate. The Secretary of the Ministry of Cultural Affairs appeared on T.V.a few days ago and said,they were once more revising the Antiquities Ordinance to include heavier penalties. In the circumstances, I would like to make these remarks.
Section 40 of the Antiquities Ordinance was fully repealed and substituted by Antiquities (Amendment) Act No. 24 of 1998, which goes, "40. The Director General of Archaeology is hereby empowered - (a), (b), etc. and enumerates his "Powers". In the Amendment, although the heading says, "Powers and Duties of the Director General of Archaeology", I find no "Duty" set out in this Amendment. "Power" is discretion whereas "Duty" is compulsory. Accordingly, I would suggest in the interest of the general public at this juncture, that, under Sect. 40 a new Sub-section 40 (1) which reads as follows be inserted in the proposed Amendments:
"40. (1) The Director General of Archaeology also shall or in his long absence the officer acting on his behalf within the meaning of Sect. 48 of the Principal Enactment publish for each Financial Year before the expiry of the following Financial Year, an Annual Administration Report with the approval of the Minister giving details of his Financial Expenditure; Research Work; Discoveries; Conservation and Restorations; Acquisitions; Publications; Inspection and Explorations; Museum Work; Declaration of Protected Monuments and Reserves, and cases of damages caused to them: Damages and Thefts of Antiquities in Departmental charge; External Movement of Antiquities; Donation of Antiquities etc. supported by plans, drawings and photographic illustrations of at least the more important subjects or items, and such other information as he may think necessary to be included therein."
Watson Peiris Mawatha in Moratuwa, which links the New Galle Road and Sea Beach Road is just 100 metres south of Holy Cross Junction (Kurusa Handiya). As you enter it, from the New Galle Road end, you are greeted with a huge pile of garbage to your left. On rainy days the whole area goes under water and the road resembles a river. Many vehicles have got damaged and hundreds of road users have suffered injuries because of the many dangerous potholes that cannot be spotted when the road is inundated. To add insult to injury, this area in question is more often than not, kept ill-lit after dark and the hapless residents have no option but to use alternative by-lanes .
Residents down the road are hopeful that the dynamic Mayor and his youthful deputy would remedy this problem very soon, since provincial council elections are very much in the pipeline!
A writer under the pen name Kumbakarna in the article titled, ''Ungodly acts by God's people" criticises the church for agitating for a change in the election date which fell on Maundy Thursday. He makes the accusation that the church is supporting the cause of Tamil separatism. He says the church is justifying its stand on the basis that if the Tamil separatists are defeated, the Christians themselves will be the target of attack. He then proceeds to issue a warning that there will be a fire which of course would engulf the small Christian minority.
He also says the church is promoting talks with the LTTE for a settlement. Surely if his argument is valid it is not in the interests of the church to do so and hasten the anticipated attack on the Christians. Perhaps he means to say the church is in a plot to save the LTTE from defeat rather than promoting peace.
It is the Western educated Buddhist intelligentsia that largely fermented the anti-Tamil campaign as well as the anti-Catholic campaign in the late fifties and sixties. They lobbied for the take-over of schools, the eviction of Catholic nursing sisters and the discrimination against Catholics in the public service.
They demanded the removal of Section 29 of the Soulbury Constitution which prohibited discrimination against ethnic and religious communities. This was achieved by the 1972 Constitution. Although individual rights were recognised in the 1978 Constitution it did not prohibit discrimination to a group. Nor did it recognise group rights. So although, individual Catholics have protection for their individual freedoms, there is no protection for their collective rights of worship.
The agitation against the election date was for protecting a group's right to collective worship. Some Christian sects have had their house churches burnt down and their pastors assaulted. The pastor as an individual could possibly go to courts to protect his rights (but note that our Constitution does not recognise the right to life).
The Anglican Church (Church of Ceylon) which was incorporated under a local statute recently sought to amend its constitution. There was loud opposition from the Buddhist lobby implying perhaps they did not wish the law to recognise the identity of such a religious body. Sinhala Buddhist nationalism, Muslim nationalism or Christian nationalism are all betrayals of the fundamental doctrine of the founders of these religions.
The founders of these religions were men who were concerned for all human beings.These founders preached love and compassion for all human beings. Their message was addressed to all mankind. The mixing of Buddhist religious emotion with Sinhala nationalism is not in the spirit of Lord Buddha. Fortunately there are many Buddhist monks who are members of the Peace Movement and campaign for peace just like Catholic and Christian Bishops. The churches are obliged to promote peace and press for negotiations to settle disputes between the Tamils and Sinhalese. Nationalism is a pernicious Western phenomenon. It has taken hold in the west owing to the decline of Christianity there.
Surely if the two communities are to remain as members of the same polity, the dispute must be resolved and resolved through negotiation and not through outright victory in war. Nationalist wars have hardly ever ended in victory for one side while maintaining the unity of the polity. If the two communities are to live in one polity isn't it necessary that there should be peace between them based on some settlement of the dispute.?
As Karl Popper pointed out "each time it has been the intellectuals who from cowardice, presumption or pride have done the most terrible things......... we who have a special responsibility to the uneducated, are the betrayers of the mind. We invented and disseminated nationalism.'' Intellectuals must accept their responsibility for the truth and for mankind''. Dr Popper said. "To move even one step closer to peace we must give up ideologies which are a threat to peace."
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