The Sunday Times on the Web Letters to the Editor

16th May 1999


Dumps are back with cows, crows and all

It is a Sri Lankan trait to start eveything with a flourish and fanfare which invariably ends in despair and despondency. 

Recently, the media highlighted that Colombo would be made a cleaner, environmentally friendly city. True - it started off with a big bang by the Municipality and the private sector. The roads were cleaner, garbage bins were placed at strategic points and the garbage removed regularly. Everything was fine - very fine but alas! The garbage dumps have erupted again with cows and crows throwing in their bit. It is a sorry scene. Just to mention a few instances - the garbage dump near the Kirulapone bridge is eternally overflowing and Maya Avenue is always littered with bits of paper and sili sili bags. The pavements are obstructed by the rubble and stones left by the workers of the electricity, telephone and drainage departments after installation work. 

These three government departments do not seem to work in co- ordination with each other and thus the public are greatly inconvenienced. 

Anderson flats Colombo 5, have been nicknamed the "Stinking Flats" by the inhabitants because of the severe pollution.

Like Tennyson's "Brook," Mayors may come, and Mayors may go, but the stench goes on forever!

Greetings! Mr. New Mayor, hope your worship will give us rate payers a better deal. 

Ranji Ilakunathan
Hevelock Town

Who the hell does he think he is?

Who said the "Bihishanaya" era was over? I happened to be an eyewitness to the undermentioned incident, which took place last month at about 5.30pm along the Castle Street/ Horton Place road.

The driver proceeding ahead of me in a metallic beige car, appeared to be chasing a double cab, tooting his horn menacingly all along from the vicinity of the Castle Street maternity home towards the D.S.Senanayake junction traffic lights. 

Both these vehicles in front including mine and the ones that followed behind me stopped for the red signal of the traffic lights. When they turned green the chase recommenced with the car driver in front again tooting his horn unceasingly. At the next Kynsey Road junction the traffic lights turned red signalling all vehicles on that lane to come to a stop. The driver in front of me appeared to be still tooting his horn vigorously intimidating the double cab driver who was the first in the lane, beside the red light, to jump lights to which the double cab driver didn't respond.

Thereupon the car driver in front of me alighted from his vehicle and on reaching the driver's door of the double cab started to thump the vehicle with his fists. When the double cab driver opened his door, the driver of the car then dealt him a blow physically. The driver of the double cab, who appeared to be a gentleman in a tie, seemed calm and composed in the face of such thuggery.

Through interest, I put my head out of the window only to hear unmentionable filthy Sinhalese words being bandied by the car driver. When the cop at the traffic lights intervened, the car driver even went to the extent of pointing a threatening finger at him and shouted that he would take necessary steps to get the cop transferred if he did not take action against the cab driver. This stockily built trousered hooligan, shortish in height could well have been another cop or a person from the security forces or even some VIP's sidekick. 

A Disturbed Onlooker

Stop the see-saw, govern together

If one were to turn back the pages of time and look into the recent record of political authority in our country, one would find that with Independence in 1948, the colonial masters handed over the island of Ceylon to us 'natives' who had been a subject race since 1815 - for over 130 years. The British had introduced their system of government by a Legislative Council which metamorphosed into a State Council and then into a Parliament.

Our national leaders of the day won our Independence without bloodshed, unlike our near neighbours and other countries emerging from the yoke of subjugation. 

With the united efforts of all our peoples, as one nation, with one political party, regardless of schisms of creed and race, the country prospered and then, through an unfortunate lapse, an irreconcilable incompatibility, that unity was split and a break-away party was born.

That was the start of bipartisan politics which over the last half a century, has been the single significant constraint to national development and progress. 

Why? The progressive legislation, however benign, which one party proposed, the other party felt obliged and compelled to oppose, the small splinter parties sometimes being the deciding factor and becoming king makers. Seldom or never did the two major parties see eye to eye and take collective action. 

When one party is returned by the people with a decisive majority of votes and forms the government, it spends the first few months in a futile effort, finding fault with the previous administration and exposing the skeletons in their cupboard, in an effort to get the maximum mileage from the misdemeanors, before settling down to any constructive business. 

Next, the party takes unilateral action regardless of what the opposition deems fit and just. And when the opposition is returned to power, they reverse the earlier legislation or make crippling amendments which nullify the original design and purpose of Bills.

And the see-saw continues thus, to the net detriment of the country. This extravagant performance takes place in every unit of governance. How petty minded!

What is the available key to this national enigma? Every unit of local government has its own quota of politicians - in Parliament, Provincial Councils, Municipal Councils, Urban Councils, Town Councils and in Village Committees. Of these, the first and the last are essential, but the in betweens are mere trappings and adornments and are redundant and would deserve to be eliminated like the former Senate in the bi-cameral system. 

Consider Provincial Councils which are very much current news - Chief Ministers. Ministers, members, security staff, vehicles, offices, and even foreign travel, to mention the salient headings of expenditure, conservatively assessed at some thirty billion rupees i.e. 30,000,000,000! Mostly funded by the tax payer!

But what happened at the last Provincial Council elections? If one were to discount the bonus seats awarded according to the rules of the game the two main parties were evenly matched and had very nearly tied. This is probably the very first time when this phenomenon has surfaced in our country. It seems to be the God sent opportunity for the two parties to bury the hatchet and to shake hands. 

What then? With the venom of acrimony out of the way, it is open to the two dominant parties to work full time and at full speed, using the best brains of both parties for the common good of Sri Lanka. 

As a first step, they should sign a 'No Contest Pact' under the aegis of Parliament, the life of which would be extended to a period of twelve years - three parliamentary periods, to establish a new political culture and to give politics a third dimension - development politics. During this period, only-bi-elections would be held to replace natural drop outs and chuck-outs. 

As a National Government, with no irritations of party politics to retard them, they can make a determined and combined effort to move the country forward. 

What more opportune and propitious moment to set our country on the road to prosperity? Failure to utilize this unique, now or never opportunity, will haunt our leaders and the country throughout the next millennium. 

Sepala Ilangakoon 

Give them a warning

Large crowds go to the Mt. Lavinia beach through De Soysa Avenue (which links De Saram Road with Mount Avenue), crossing the railway track at great risk. 

The railway track in the area has been re-laid with narrow, high concrete slabs replacing the old wooden sleepers, making it difficult to cross the track speedily and safely. 

It will help the people to cross the track safely and quickly if the track is filled up for an area of about 15 feet to enable the pedestrians, the feeble and children to cross over the double track in minimum time.

The danger lies because there are two bends on both sides of the track close to the area used by the pedestrians to cross the track. 

Hence it is suggested that warning lights be installed, facing the crossing area, so that people may be warned well in time of the arrival of trains. 

Provision of a car park at the end of De Soysa Avenue will help to solve the parking problem of the visitors to the Mount Lavinia beach. 

Queenie Fernando
Mount Lavinia

Defacing with faces

I think it is time that the authorities concerned take stern action against those who pollute public places and walls. Among those guilty of littering walls and public places are the rulers and would be rulers of the country, who too have joined this cheap level of campaigning, specially during election time. Election posters and commercial posters take a prominent place among the various types of posters found along our highways and on side roads. Even the parapet walls, Telecommunication Department posts, electricity posts, road boards, mile posts and destination boards are not spared. During election time, immediately after the nominations are given, we see posters with the party candidates' faces on walls, along with that of their leaders, although it is an offence under our present election laws.

Another type of posters which we observe often at public places are notices of death with the faces of the dead, which remain on the walls and lamp posts for an unlimited time until they are torn off by street urchins or are worn off. I think the dead will not like to have their faces pasted on lamp posts and street walls.

The display of political posters, commercial advertisements, death notices and cinema posters at public places are affecting the aesthetic beauty of our roads and environment. Those responsible for these acts should understand that the state or the private parties concerned will have to incur additional expenditure to get these posters removed and also for colour washing of walls etc., which have been damaged or defaced by these posters.

Lionel L. Leanage

Not more medical schools, but more facilities are needed

There is a big hue and cry made by some, demanding permission to set up a private medical school. They have even threatened to take legal action if they are not given the green light to have it their way. There is no necessity at all to create any more medical schools whether private or public in this country. 

We already have five state sponsored medical schools affiliated to the universities. As an insider with first hand information I regret to state that all these medical faculties, including the much boasted premier one in Colombo do not have the basic teaching and research facilities in some of the departments in comparison to such institutions in developed countries.There is a dearth of medical teaching staff, mostly in specialized fields.

This situation will hit rock bottom if private medical schools are allowed, because obviously they will try to obtain the services of the best teachers available, by offering them more attractive remuneration packages than what they get from the state universities. Those who will suffer as a result are the children of ordinary people.

What we require with regard to training of more medical officers is certainly not to create any more medical schools but to improve the facilities at the university medical faculties and to increase the number of medical students taken into the universities. 

A.D. Dharmakirti 

When oh when will this cruelty end?

The mobile gas vans, with the local cowboys and their lassos, were spotted down the streets of Dehiwela/ Kohuwela areas recently. 

The Municipal Council carried out an anti-rabies campaign about ten days ago. Sadly for some unknown reason, the dogs that were vaccinated were not collared, but a card was given instead. Imagine to everyone's horror, when a couple of days ago, these local cowboys, picked up dogs on the street, irrespective of whether they were vaccinated or not. People known to me lost their pets. We "Dog Lovers" have reiterated that the gassing of dogs is not going to solve the rabies problem. First and foremost the female dogs must be sterilised. Then, there is no breeding. 

The question of funds is always the problem when we discuss the sterilisation programme.What a waste of money, by the council, in paying these local cowboys to show off their skills, in doing something senseless. Whom could we turn to for help? 

Is it not possible for the Mayor of Dehiwela/Mt. Lavinia to have a dog pound? At least people, whose pets have been taken, could then save them. In any case this method of gassing must not continue. The old method of the dog cart is much better. At least owners could retrieve their pets. 

Sita Undugodage

It's not the party that matters but individual

All the "hollow headed", "self elated" and "self projected" politicians including the leaders, together with the self-acclaimed so called political analysts have all been totally misled by the recently held provincial council election results.

Some said, " a clean sweep for the P.A and a total defeat for the U.N.P." Some others said when compared with the 1994 Presidential election results, it was a set back for the P.A and a gain for the U.N.P. Some have even blamed some ministers for losing their so-called seats. In reality when we consider the factors which influenced the voter, these conceptions and statements are a misconception and a fallacy. Mine is a view-point of an ordinary voter, that of my relations, friends and myself.

At Presidential and General elections the party and the candidate will be of significance. But at local government and provincial council elections, what matters most to the voter is the candidate, the person, the individual and not a party. All those who won at the last elections did so on their personal standing in society, contact with as many for longer period of time (not only during election time) and the service they have done and are doing to the society. Only a few voted on a party basis. The J.V.P was an exception since all voted for the party and there was no infighting for the "manape".

When we take Moratuwa as an example, very many voted for Susantha Siriratne and Wirantha Fernando because they are respectable, responsible and efficient people who are always in close contact with all sections of society and have done and are doing a lot of service to the community.

They being PA. candidates, all those who voted for them had also to vote for the P.A whether they liked it or not even though they were not PA sympathizers. Similarly, all those who voted for Thompson Mendis had also to vote for the U.N.P whether they liked it or not. So it is obvious that what mattered most was the candidates and not the party. 

The reason why the U.N.P secured more votes in Moratuwa is because the U.N.P candidates were able to collectively get more personal votes than those from other parties. Unknown, unpopular and dubious candidates were unable to secure personal votes although they spent a lot of money.

It's an accepted fact that the calamity that has befallen our motherland is the 'party system'. The greater calamity is the fact that the selfish and self-centred politician and even some others expect every citizen to be a party man. 'I am an S.L.F.Per, I am a U.N.Per, 'He is a Communist' etc., are statements trotted out very often. 

The 'Party does not matter at every election. The 'Candidate' matters at all elections.

M.V.N de Silva

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