Letters to the Editor

19th December 1999



It's dilemma time for voters

At least nine out of ten people would reject the continuance of the Executive Presidency as it has not helped the ordinary people in any way for the past 21 years. The dictatorial powers of the head of state have not improved even the law and order situation in the country. On the contrary, law and order have deteriorated to such an extent that violence is the order of the day with the underworld thriving, allegedly with political patronage. So the voter is in a dilemma as December 21 approaches.

The incumbent President should have first held a referendum to find out what percentage of the people wanted the Executive Presidency, since she failed to honour her promise to abolish it in 1994. If she was genuinely interested in doing away with it she need not have linked it to other issues. Then the required two- third majority in parliament would have been available to push it through.

It would also be prudent to examine the merits -if there are any- of the three major contending parties- the PA, the UNP and the JVP.

The UNP which is responsible for creating this post, which most people would like to get rid of, cannot deny that power was misused during their 17- year rule. The bogus referendum that was held in 1982 to extend parliament by a full term with undated letters of resignation obtained from MPs was an undemocratic exercise.

The much talked of 'open market economy' that was introduced saw local production diminishing, with most of the industries closing down. State ventures were sold cheaply in the name of privatisation and even agricultural production fell well below target. Imports exceeded exports resulting in the rupee value declining rapidly against international currencies.

Those in the import trade became the new rich and are living it up even now, consuming luxuries brought in with the foreign exchange earned by the sweat and blood of housemaids slaving in West Asia, while it is a hand- to- mouth existence for the masses.

The PA leader who campaigned relentlessly in 1994 highlighted all these ills and the pathetic situation that the country had fallen into after 1977, attributing them to the new constitution. The pledge that she would abolish the Executive Presidency within a year changed the tide in her favour, giving her an unprecedented mandate. From then onwards it was a case of acting contrary to her promises.

What the PA is doing is not very different from what its predecessors did, in some cases changing only the name as in Janasaviya to Samurdhi, and the Presidential mobile service held at irregular intervals. A journalist too has been killed during this period which is said to be one of total media freedom. Only the undated letters of resignation from MPs have not been collected and no new clock towers erected.

The JVP is supposed to be gaining popularity as it claims to have learnt lessons from the past. However it will be difficult to erase from the mind of the mature voter, the destruction caused by the JVP to life and property during the two insurrections in 1971 and 89-90.The JVP has one point in its favour- its continuing pledge to abolish the executive presidency and return to a socialist democracy.

So it is Hobson's choice for the voter with the contenders having little or no credibility.


Don't you feel for him?

Please look at this picture. Would you look away because this child has no vote? Could you or could you not appreciate what it conveys?

It has been said that, a picture conveys a thousand words.

Do you comprehend even half of that?

You are vying for platform space to proclaim your intentions to better the lot of the worse off.

Here is your chance.

Who could be worse off than this tender child? With fear and anguish written all over his face, not knowing whom or what to ask for?

If you are at a loss for words or deed, how about telling those hoteliers who are shamelessly touting 5- figure tickets for bashes to welcome the Millennium, to either levy an extra amount or part with 10% of the face value of each ticket for the sake of the displaced.

Jerry Ubayasiri

Train others, not doctors

I refer to the letter headlined 'Free medical care; burden or bequest' in The Sunday Times of 28.11.99, by the Parents' Union of Medical Students, Kandy.

This union points out that the population to doctor ratio here, is worse than 4000:1 compared to a WHO recommendation of 800:1'

I would like to comment on this statement.

Today Sri Lanka has about one doctor (a medical graduate in western medicine) to about 2500 people.

My understanding is that the WHO does not recommend any ideal or standard doctor population ratios. Instead it recommends, that an adequate proportion of the GDP be allocated for health; that human resources for health be developed in a balanced manner, and that the facilities necessary to use resources optimally such as buildings, equipment and drugs be developed along with human resources.

Sri Lanka has invested too much on training doctors. This imbalance has to be rectified. To do this we have to stop further expansion of training of doctors, and expand the training of other categories of health workers.

Dr. Lucian Jayasuriya

They are fighting and dying, others are partying

We are nearing the end of another year. A year no different from those in the recent past, in which we saw a lot of destruction. Whole villages were destroyed, a countless number of lives were lost of both civilians and armed forces and young men were maimed for life. People in the 'war zone' live in constant fear, many of them in refugee camps where there's no room for human dignity.

Not for them the super markets and glitzy shopping malls. No Christmas celebrations, no New Year parties, no fancy goods. They do not even know whether they will live to eat their next meal.

On the other hand, there are others preparing to celebrate the dawn of a New year, spending lavishly on a night's entertainment what it would take to rebuild a village, or a school or provide a whole refugee camp with meals for a couple of weeks. They forget there are men fighting in the battle- front risking their lives for the unity of this country and of course making it possible for those "fortunate ones" in the "peaceful" areas to have a perpetual carnival.

Erandinie Mallika Rodrigo de Silva

Judge them on these grounds

Our politics, and elections are influenced by petty things such as affiliations and friendships, rhetoric and slogans, posters and advertisements and above all attacks and counter attacks.

We Sri Lankans are intelligent, literate and with a high sense of moral and spiritual values than many Australasians. Then we should select the leaders intelligently and assess their performance to ensure that leaders with commitment, dedication and capabilities are sent to the parliament to rule the nation. I think, true nationalism is not blowing one's trumpet, but delivering goods. Here are a few criteria by which governments must be assessed:

Economy: People must know and talk about the per capita income, price of goods, inflation, interest rates, reserves, rupee value, budget deficit and all the economic indices that show true economic growth. Governments have a duty to present the true figures to the nation at least annually.

War: UNP and SLFP governments have failed so far to end the war. People must know the total number of civilians (including villagers), soldiers and terrorists killed annually and during the period of their reign. Other war criteria would be the area captured, number of LTTE attacks on camps, number of deserters, amount of arms captured, aeroplanes and vessels destroyed and the degree of sophistication of the LTTE.

Unemployment: People must know the changes in the unemployment rate. Profits or losses from government departments and corporations should be publicized annually. Improvement in the efficiency of government departments and corporations (e.g. maximum period to complete legal cases, documentation by Rental Board) need to be examined.

International achievements: International achievements in sports, science and technology and literature (e.g. World Cup, Nobel Prize etc.) are also indicators that show the performance of the nation.

Dr. Leonard Pinto


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