|Letters to the Editor
11th July 1998
Sri Lanka is surely and steadily being torn apart these past 20 years with no sign of abatement. We have now reached the sorry state that when a majority of its citizens are keen to support peace, 'militant' organisations are attempting to whip up a frenzy and mislead the masses to "fight to a finish."
It is common knowledge and I am personally aware that quite a proportion of the youth of our country and their parents do not desire or encourage enlistment, particularly in the Army.
Being the director of companies employing almost 6000 personnel I come across young men desperately seeking jobs. Quite a large percentage of these personnel look quite robust. Hence I suggest to them that they enlist in one of the services. There is an immediate change of attitude. Parents of many youth meet me seeking jobs for their sons. They tell me their biggest worry is that the son may enlist in the military. In fact, some tell me that the young men threaten that they will "sign up."
The other category of people are those who are already in the services and on the verge of completing their period of initial contract seeking to get menial jobs in the mercantile sector as labourers or security guards. Most of them cite either parental or domestic pressure to leave the service in which they are employed
The problem is aggravated by the unprecedented number of deserters. In fact, the percentage of desertions may also be a world record. An idiom used by some of the expatriate community known to me describing an individual who avoids responsibility is : "like your Sri Lankan soldiers who say bye bye and run away." The shortfall in recruitment is not confined to the Army in the South but also to the LTTE in the North and East - hence the formation of " baby brigades."
We are not a nation of cowards. However, the average citizen has realised he is a pawn in the game played by power hungry politicians, their hangers-on and the arms traders both local and international. Whilst the flower of the country is bleeding both physically and economically a small minority who would not dare to don military uniforms and carry arms shout themselves hoarse inciting others to fight. This is rather reminiscent of an American General who extolling his troops during the second world war said "do not die for your country but make sure that the other mothers' sons die for their country!"
It is a fact that at different stages of the history of our country injustices have occurred to all communities. However, talking and harping on these matters does not help the present plight. We must look to the future and explore all possibilities to ensure peace and equitable standards for all Sri Lankans.
I do not propose a ceasfire in that we were bitten twice by the LTTE. However, whilst the battle is being fought every endeavour should be made to start negotiations either in Sri Lanka or abroad. Let us not play with words such as "mediator" "facilitator" "internal problem " but approach with an open mind to arrive at a solution acceptable to a large cross section of all communities. Let us not seek to live in "Utopia " and "believe" in empty promises and fables whilst everything around us is crumbling.
We feel that the forthcoming Triangular Contest with Australia and India will be an ideal platform for Australia to blast all the records off the score book when playing against Sri Lanka.
Our depleted and demoralised cricket team can offer hardly any resistance in this contest.
The existing world records established by Sanath Jayasuriya and Roshan Mahanama in Test history are in danger of being smashed by the Aussies, unless a determined effort is made by our team to restrict the scoring rate of the Aussies in the forthcoming matches.
The question is - are we ready to take on the Australian World Champs and the Indians so soon after the recent debacle? It would appear that NOBODY, yes NOBODY, is interested in ensuring that we put up a decent fight. Frankly, we have had no time at all to rehabilitate our team.
In a sense, it was poetic justice that enabled India to establish a record partnership in One Day cricket at our expense, for the Sri Lankan records in Test history were made against India.
It was therefore almost a reciprocal gesture of courtesy when Sri Lanka allowed the Indian batsmen to score at will against our poor bowling! So now, look out for huge scores against Sri Lanka and the tumbling of many records in the forthcoming triangular series !!
This refers to the letter which appeared in The Sunday Times of April 18, written by R. Weerakoon of Colombo l3.
It is enlightening to know that there are people who still possess statistical information, which could assist in "giving credit where it is due." Those who know Anthony Marcellus would agree with every word mentioned by R. Weerakoon.
Mr. Marcellus during his political career was undoubtedly a man who dedicated himself to the public and the swimming pool which was his brainchild speaks for his commitment to the people.
Unfortunately those who were instrumental in dropping the name of the father of this project (Anthony Marcellus) were either not born or not in politics then, so today it is so very easy for them to use this project for their own political gains.
I would like to stress to them that this project was a magnanimous one. In the Fifties, a swimming pool was a total luxury and it was only the very affluent who could afford to use them. Hence this move by Mr. Marcellus gave the less fortunate something they could have never dreamt of.
Why don't those instrumental in dropping the name of Mr. Marcellus simply look at originating similar projects and get their names inscribed, and give credit to the father of this project by naming it after him.
Maybe for that matter, they could ponder as to how many 'Swimming Pools' have been built after the Fifties to cater to the needs of the public similar to the one at Kotahena. The answer would justify why it should be named the 'Anthony Marcellus Swimming Pool & Community Centre'. Let's hope this catches the eyes of the right people and there would be some action soon.
The President was recognised recently by the international community for her work in increasing the awareness of tobacco and the dangers of smoking in our community. However, it is a great shame her work is not supported by the hospitality industry in this country.
The experience of my wife and myself in several restaurants in the recent past has underscored the indifference of hotel and restaurant management to the hazards of both active and passive smoking. None of these renowned eating places, that all claim to have "star" status, has any stated policy on smoking in their environs.
Our most recent encounter was at a well-known hotel in Wadduwa recently. Here, in their main dining facility, smokers were allowed to light up at whim. The management was totally unconcerned that two newborns, several toddlers and infants and four pregnant women were forced to breathe polluted air. Being parents of an infant who was with us in the restaurant, we talked to the Manager of the hotel. His response to our concern was simply staggering. He answered that the chain this particular hotel belongs to, had given an assurance to "tour operators" that their clients would be allowed to smoke in the restaurants. His plain comment to us was that he "could not stop anyone from smoking". It horrified us that these visitors who are prohibited by law, from lighting up in all enclosed areas in their own countries are allowed to contaminate the air here. We have encountered the same indifference at the other well-known hotels and restaurants.
Inasmuch as we recognize that smokers are entitled to deliberately impair their own health, they certainly do not have the right to endanger the health of those around them in the process of doing so. To rub salt into the wound, like it was in our case, it is usually the non-smokers who are invariably expected to choose the least desirable option and that is to leave the particular facility. It is ironic that in other parts of the world it is precisely the smokers who have to make that choice.
I fail to see by what logic my family and I were deprived of the use of normal hotel facilities for which we had paid the same price as the smokers. On the other hand, it is very probable we paid much more since tour groups usually avail of discount packages. It is equally probable that in order to offer such attractive discounts, it is us, the locals, who end up subsidizing the tourists.
The managements of these establishments have attempted to resolve the problem by demarcating their restaurants into smoking and non-smoking areas. This is, of course, utterly ridiculous and serves absolutely no purpose when restaurants are equipped with a single ventilation system. The simple alternative, as practised elsewhere in the world, is to invite patrons to light up outside, should they so desire. Even simpler would be the posting of a clear NO SMOKING sign outside restaurant doors.
As much as we appreciate that hotels and restaurants have a corporate responsibility to insure their bottom-lines, they cannot obviously be allowed to do so at the expense and disregard of their overriding ethical and social responsibilities to the community and to the nation.
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