|Letters to the Editor
25th April 1999
There have been a couple of letters recently which have criticised the comments made by this columnist about the role of the Catholic and Protestant churches in the ongoing conflict.
However, these letters avoid the principal issue that was raised.
Why does the church remain silent in the face of LTTE atrocities?
The example given was the attack on the Sinhalese fishing community at Kokilai, during which the inhabitants of the entire village were slaughtered, and the Catholic church there was burnt down. Not a word of condemnation was uttered, presumably because the perpetrators were the LTTE and the victims were Sinhalese.
However, when the PC elections were scheduled for Maundy Thursday, the hierarchy of the church called for nationwide protests.
It is laughable that one of these letters says that "the agitation against the election date was for protecting a group's right to collective worship". Which is the greater infringement of "a group's right to collective worship"- the inhabitants of an entire village being slaughtered and their church destroyed, or holding an election on Maundy Thursday?
This letter also accuses the "Western educated Buddhist intelligentsia" of "largely fermenting the anti-Tamil campaign as well as the anti-Catholic campaign in the late fifties and sixties". Leaving aside the truth or otherwise of that accusation, is that why the hierarchy of the Catholic church now acts in a manner that furthers the aims of the LTTE, whose campaign is aimed primarily against the Sinhalese Buddhists?
In the collective psyche of Sri Lanka, our memory span, it seems, has dwindled as never before. Perhaps a continuous saga of tragic events has brought about this mechanism of self-preservation. However, for the individuals caught up within this tangle, the pain and anger will never go away.
Three years ago,. Dr Jane Russell, an Oxford graduate and Fulbright scholar of no mean repute, was bundled mysteriously out of the country at midnight- deported for overstaying her visa! It is inconceivable for a sane mind to believe that a disciplined student of history, hailing from a respectable British family (her father being a high ranking civil servant and her brother the vice president of a leading British recording company), would not have the common sense to fill in a set of papers for the extension of a visa.
The official version of the sorry tale is that these papers never "reached" them. Even copies handed over the counter at the relevant Government departments (one set handed over by me personally) simply disappeared. Ironically. not long after, the Head of this Department was charged with providing fraudulent passports to possible LTTE supporters. However, it was Jane who went to high security prison- first to Bogambara, then to Welikada- with charges varying from driving without a proper licence, to running a brothel, to being a terrorist sympathiser.
Finally she was sent to the Mirihana Detention centre, from where convicted paedophiles walk off freely. But this woman whose gravest crime is seen to be an innate love for Sri Lanka and Sri Lankans, is intimidated, bullied and sent off with only the clothes she had on. This, mind you, in spite of being a partner in a legally constituted BOI business.
To add insult to injury, quotations from her book "The Communal Policies under the Donoughmore Constitution", are freely used today (without her knowledge or permission) by learned ministers of the present Cabinet and by leading lawyers and academicians. The book, I understand, is a text at the Kotelawala Military Academy.
In Jane's own words in a recent letter, "time devours us all" - and surely enough time has passed for the authorities concerned to see what institutionalised injustice can do. To lift the deportation order seems the least that the Government can do - not for Jane's sake, for she may not ever want to come here again, but for the sake of our own dignity and self-respect.
It is hilarious to learn of a fashion show being held for the Hajj Festival.
Hajj festival is not a time for extravagance and vanity. It is a time of simple celebration, backed specially by the spirit of sacrifice. It is a time for millions to sacrifice their time, money and physical effort to go on pilgrimage to the Holy City. It is a time to fast the first nine days and feed the poor who are not going on pilgrimage.
The dresses exhibited at the so-called fashion show were far from anything Islamic. In fact they are in total contrast with the Islamic code of dressing - women in sleeveless deep-necked blouses, in trousers, in saris draped in such a way to expose their bosoms etc. The fez is not supposed to be worn by the woman at all - it has nothing to do with Islamic culture, rather a dress of some Islamic countries. Those who want to parade women in provocative dresses, please do so at your own peril. But please do not prostitute the name of Islam and Hajj for your end - It is haram, totally forbidden and blasphemous!
Dr. Mrs. Mareena Reffai,
The stark reality of the Provincial Council Elections is that 55% of the population of the five Provinces have rejected the PA. The President can no longer talk of her 62% mandate.
In Colombo City the PA has been rejected by over 70% of the voters. In my opinion, this is due to the traffic congestion created by permanent road closures, temporary road closures every time the President has to leave her fortress and dozens of check points that people have to go through in their daily life. Whether you go to school or to work or even for a function at a five star hotel, you have to go through numerous check points, which are manned by personnel who do not seem to know what to took for. During the time of the UNP, the City was much more secure and people had more freedom to move around. Colombo looks like a city under siege because of the incompetence of politicians who think that they are military strategists.
The check points are necessary to prevent bomb laden vehicles from entering certain areas. I have seen heavy vehicles going through check points unchecked by security personnel while they were busy checking school vans and L-board drivers. Have these check points resulted in any terrorists being caught or explosives being recovered? These personnel could probably be put to better use by either fighting crime or going to the North and winning the war.
We are also sick of having to move aside and give way on the road to horn-tooting convoys carrying Military big shots who are always in a hurry.
We are also averse to goons in Pajeros who think they own the roads.
The grievances of the retired public servants have been either ignored or forgotten by the state. It is very pathetic, that these pensioners find it difficult to make both ends meet, due to the high cost of living. The medical bills of those pensioners too are also on the increase day by day.
Several salaries commissions have been appointed from time to time for public servants and those recommended increases have been implemented. But the grievances of the pensioners are either ignored or forgotten, leaving them in the lurch. At times when such commissions recommend increases to pensioners, they are not even taken into consideration by the Department of Public Administration.
Even though the increases recommended for public servants are more related to the escalating cost of living, the increases recommended for pensioners are inadequate.
Even the B.C. Perera Commission (Sessional Paper No. 11 of 1996) recommended an increase of 30% for pensioners, but the government ignored this and gave an increase of 10%, that too, in two annual instalments.
After all, the pension given to an officer is a part of the remuneration given to him, for all the services, he has rendered to the government, when he was in service. Therefore, it is nothing but fair to give an increase, related to the spiralling cost of living, to the pensioners to face this situation.
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