Letters to the Editor
23rd January 2000
The long-suffering people of Sri Lanka, seem destined to have their hopes of peace and consensus, dashed yet again by the spate of post-election recriminations.
Are the prospects of reconciliation with the UNP and even the LTTE, which President Chandrika Kumaratunga held out so convincingly, at her swearing-in ceremony and all the goodwill it engendered, fast dissipating? Her magnanimity and astuteness were brought to the fore, probably by the euphoria of her recovering from a terrible and regrettable near-death experience.
However, even before viable alternatives could be explored, accusations and counter accusations are being flung across the political divide and we all appear to be back to square one! If only all politicians could analyze the votes cast not only for them but against them and realise that each and every vote represents the aspirations and hopes of a citizen of this country (leaving aside the reports of rigging ballot boxes, violence etc.), what a good thing it would be.
Collectively, 51% of the votes cast were for the PA, 42% for the UNP and 7% for the other parties. So when politicians cast aspersions on their counterparts on the opposing side, they are in fact insulting and disparaging the voters, who exercised their most fundamental freedom in voting for the party of their choice. Our history, since independence has been a steady descent on almost all fronts and the two main parties which held the reins, as they see-sawed their way through the past 50 years, have little to be proud of. Corruption, indiscipline and inefficiency are more rampant than ever before.
Lip service is paid to the tenets of the four greatest religions of the world by politicians of every hue (interestingly few are avowed non-religious atheists or agnostics!), but how few can honestly claim to have clean hands? 'Bheeshanaya' was not the monopoly of one government ... it only got steadily worse from the burning and looting of 1958 onwards. Who can forget the atrocities of 1971, when young, mutilated, swollen bodies floated down our rivers, mainly the Kelani ganga? The unspeakable horrors of 1983 were followed by a reign of terror, when both the JVP and the government forces vied with each other to out-do their cruel, inhuman deeds.
The L.T.T.E. provided a running thread of violence throughout, with their grenades and suicide bombers, killing indiscriminately as their supremo dictated.
But the speech delivered by the President on taking office, brought a fresh surge of hope, as the majority of Sri Lankans, for whatever party they voted welcomed her statesmanlike approach. It was time to end the divisiveness, which has been the bane of this country. But who heeded her call?
Everyone, who is anyone in all our political parties is only interested in trading accusations, recriminations and insults about past actions. Isn't it time to compromise and forget the terrible deeds of the past, whichever party or person was responsible for them?
Unless the President and the Opposition Leader join forces and combine their skills, for the greater good not only of those who voted for them, but also for those who didn't, there is little hope for this country.
Of course, all in the party network (who are now engaged in narrow, confrontational politics) should be severely dealt with, if they break a mutually agreed code of behaviour, which the two leaders, who obtained 93% of the total votes cast, could establish.
Negotiations with the LTTE or anyone from such a position of strength, will have a greater chance of success than the most powerful armed force. In this will be all our hopes for peace and reconciliation in the new millennium.
It is strange but true that OL students in the Western Province including the Colombo district had studied three books during three years of a new syllabus on Buddhism, while those in the rest of the country had books only from the old syllabus.
To the dismay of the Colombo students, the Buddhism paper had been set from the old syllabus.
How can children be tested on something they have not studied? This is very unfair.
It is also a grave injustice to these students as it will affect their future. The Commissioner-General of Examinations should take urgent remedial action.
Maybe the pass, credit and distinction results could be lowered considering the plight of these students.
Mrs. S. Gunasekera
How can there be real peace in this country,
As a retired Chief Inspector of Police, with a good record of crime detections involving house searches, I would like to correct a misconception about the right of a police officer to search a house without a warrant.
The Police Ordinance (Section 68, Chapter 53) states:
"It shall be lawful for any police officer without a warrant to enter and inspect all drinking shops, gambling houses and other resorts of loose and disorderly characters, all premises of persons suspected of receiving stolen property etc., and take charge of all property, reasonably suspected to have been stolen, which may serve as evidence of the crime supposed to have been committed".
This would include smuggled lethal weapons, hidden contraband items, suicide bomber's outfits and even searches of lodges or "safe houses" harbouring suspected criminals.
If however, after the search, such police officer finds no incriminating evidence, he should justify his lawful entry to the house or premises to conduct the search, by making the appropriate entries in his pocket note book and other records promptly.
Otherwise it could lead to criticism later and even have implications in fundamental rights cases filed by the chief occupants of the houses searched. The police must also report to court about the search.
Therefore, it is apparent that a chief occupant would not be within his/her rights to refuse such lawful entry into the house, to the police, to conduct a search, after the reasons have been duly explained.
The police should not seal a house unless it is the scene of an alleged murder, with the body within it, and that too until the arrival of the Magistrate to conduct a judicial inquiry.
The above legal provision ensures protection to the police officer searching a house and also prevents a delay - which could be caused by seeking a search warrant - when swift action is necessary.
M.S.A. Rahim, Retired Chief Inspector of Police,
Mulleriya New Town
"Someone, somewhere has saved my life. It is a miracle!" These were the words of President Chandrika Kumaratunga to the nation on her return home from hospital, after having been injured in the December 18 bomb attack.
Yes, quite often something tragic has to happen in our lives for us to realise that there is indeed "someone, somewhere" who loves and cares for us and protects, comforts and guides us. Many of us know this "Someone" and commit ourselves to His care daily.
The popular South African cricketer, Jonty Rhodes, recently said, "You have only to open your heart to Him and He will abide in you."
May that "someone" grant the President a speedy and complete recovery and give her courage, strength and wisdom to succeed in the arduous task that lies ahead.
Dr. Riley Fernando
When students go to the External Examinations Department of the Kelaniya University to buy material, the officers there insist that they pay at the Bank of Ceylon on the Colombo-Kandy Road.
The external examination branches of other universities provide students with the facility of settling bills at the offices themselves.
The other day, I was surprised when they issued me with some vouchers for some past question papers purchased, and asked me to pay them at the Bank of Ceylon.
The 400 metres to the bank is a steep climb. I request the authorities to take steps to eliminate this inconvenience.
Suicide bombers who have targeted important persons, have also left many harmless bystanders dead.
This, from the point of view of a suicide bomber is inevitable and trivial. Then how can a bomber be stopped?
If security guards shoot the bomber before the attack the bomb would go off anyway. Even during a check the bomber has no way out but to pull the loop, as the blast jacket he or she is wearing is fastened to the body in such a manner that the bomber cannot take it off.
Security personnel could have handled the bomber near the Prime Minister's office in many ways, but it was clear that they had not been trained in this form of combat.
The defence authorities should get cracking and train these guards on how to tackle a suicide bomber.
The Gampaha road from the Ekala junction is badly damaged for about two kilometres.
There are potholes which inconvenience both motorists and pedestrians.
A few accidents too have occurred due to the condition of the road.
It is time the authorities repaired this major highway without delay.
It is regrettable that the President does not seem to be bothered about the state of city roads. Traffic jams have worsened in the city due to the closure of one section of the Galle Road from Kollupitiya junction to Galle Face, to buses and vans. Even before the city workers can get back to their homes at 7 p.m. the road is closed up for the night. Hundreds of cars caught up in this closure near Rotunda Gardens, have to make a detour causing more traffic jams along Union Place and General's Lake Road. If the economy is to improve, among other things, Galle Road too should be opened up and traffic allowed to flow freely.
A lot of people thought that the Liberal Party would lose badly at the Presidential Election. But they were proven wrong.
The Liberal Party secured more than 25,000 votes islandwide. Currently, it has 5th place in Sri Lanka. The three major communities have accepted its policies and this can be seen by the number of votes the party won in the North - East Province.
The party's presidential candidate Rajiva Wijesinghe in his election manifesto states: 'The liberal principle is very simple. People must be free to pursue their own interests provided they do not harm others.
"Liberals have a clear vision of trying to open up opportunities to everyone while allowing everyone the right to choose for themselves."
People liked his principles. That is why he was able to receive these votes without a single propaganda meeting. We hope that the party will gain more votes in the future.
The sidewalks spill over, they're terribly jammed,
Will they be short or will they be tall?
The reversals suffered by the Army recently should not come as a surprise. Considering the sporadic and disjointed nature of Army offensives and the large area of land it was defending, an LTTE counter-punch was long in coming.
The only uncertainty was the timing of the counter-attack which was obviously delayed due to manpower and fire-power shortage. No sooner the LTTE were satisfied than these requirements were sufficiently met, they struck back.
This is a bleak hour for the Army. Enjoying the fullest backing of the state which provides easy access to both men and material, the Army does not even reflect its obvious advantages in the field. In numbers, it has a more than 10 to one lead over the LTTE.
It has the support of the Air Force and Navy. Much has been done to improve its armour and artillery. Many of its officers have received foreign training.
By contrast, the LTTE has no big international friends. It has a limited pool of funds and has to smuggle weapons through a complicated route. In fact, most of its weapons were taken from the Army by force or stealth. But by using its limited resources with imagination and daring, the LTTE has been able to befuddle the Army.
It is hard to find any military merit in Army operations. The operational doctrine appears to be to attack only when assured of an overwhelming advantage.
Even when enjoying this advantage, it only moves forward by inches but gives way hastily when counter-attacked by small but determined groups of LTTE cadres. Despite the sacrifice of many lives and the massive amount of money spent, why has success eluded the Army?
An Army is a creature of the nation that created it and cannot march much ahead of that nation. A nation's material prosperity, technological know-how, culture of success and physical robustness will be reflected in its Army. Strong Armies of the past such as the Greeks, Romans, English, Germans and Japanese represented nations that were strong in other aspects too.
On the contrary, Armies of weak nations often show poor organisation, lack of staying power and discipline, inner corruption and an inability to materially and psychologically rise to new challenges. Barring a few exceptions, the stronger the nation, stronger the Army.
The long drawn-out war in the north has cruelly laid bare the glaring inadequacies and failings of our nation and its institutions for all to see.
Materially we are a poor country. In the 50 years since independence, we have not been able to break the cycle of poverty. Technologically, we are one of the most backward. Almost all the weapons in the hands of the combatants would be foreign made. Most of our institutions are poorly run and are relatively unproductive. As a people, we are less concerned with concepts such as efficiency, productivity and standards, while ideas such as status, clan loyalty and living for the day find ready adherents. It is indeed a pity that a nation such as ours had to blunder into a war which now we cannot control.
It is symptomatic of a nation in crisis that it cannot produce leaders who are equal to the tasks of the day. When you call upon the young men of a nation to give their lives for a cause, it is vital that leaders of that nation are men of integrity and ability. Integrity is not merely financial honesty but is a much larger amalgam of qualities.
Similarly a wartime leader is required to be much more than a soap box orator or a sedate civil servant.
It is quite obvious that our leaders can be considered historical personages. When the nation is in desperate need of leaders of stature we are burdened with men of small minds and deeds.
This is our tragedy.
P.R. De Silva
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