Letters to the Editor

13th February 2000

Consensus politics does not mean dictatorship

The recent Presidential election campaign demonstrated clearly how the Westminster system of party politics is practised here. Most of the negative aspects of the system namely the antagonistic opposing attitudes were accentuated, while the positive constructive aspects of a healthy opposition-the essence of that system were absent.

The rules of the game were there only to be broken. That was the order of the day. Each candidate vilified and hurled abuse at his/her opponent and their followers did the same. 

The Wayamba atmosphere was repeated on an islandwide scale. This bears ample proof that our politicians and their leaders are either ignorant of the rules of the game, or are wilfully violating the rules in their relentless hunger for power. Power certainly does corrupt and it has unfolded itself on a mass scale. Instead of conducting their political activities in a cordial manner, the principal players, made it a battlefront among themselves. This attitude of confrontational politics arises from their personal ego centric behaviour and their strong attachment to party-power politics. 

The irony is that, thus far we have failed to develop our country which is so beautifully and bountifully blessed by mother nature, socio-economically because we have failed to capitalise on these blessings despite the high rate of literacy we have achieved.

Politicians must forget their petty antagonistic politics and put their heads together to evolve a national system of governance by common consensus for the benefit of the country. This is the need of the hour.

The Constitution must be so amended to provide this structure of grouping the parliamentarians into consultative committees, a committee for each subject headed by a minister. This type of governance is not foreign to us for we have already experienced the Executive Committee system of the pre-independence era, which served efficiently and kept us united as one Sri Lankan nation, all parties sharing power at the centre. The proof of the pudding is in the eating. We have tasted both systems, the Westminster type of politics and the Executive Committee system practised by common consensus. Therefore, there should be no qualms in choosing what is best for us. Constitutional experts should give thought to the above observations and evolve a new and lasting Constitution which would stand the test of time and serve the nation and the generations to come. 

Some may attempt to interpret all-party governance by common consensus as a form of dictatorship, but that is erroneous as all views are discussed by the respective committees before acceptance in a true democratic manner. The unitary structure of the country must be retained to maintain peace, prosperity and stability. The Executive President as the head of the state must be retained with the clause of immunity withdrawn. He/she must be within the law and answerable to Parliament and the people. 

Dr. George R. Wijegunaratne 

Who wants snail mail privatised?

Just before Christmas last year, I mailed a card to a member of my staff, who lives in Wattala, and it was received only at the beginning of January. A postcard informing us about a meeting on January 24, posted in Colombo reached me only on February 10. 

What is happening to our Postal Services? Who is playing games? Who is cheating whom? Is someone promoting privatisation? Are they helping the promotion of Agency Post Offices? 

The public would like to know whether they can rely on the postal department, for it is their taxes that by and large finance the postal service. 

Fr. Sydney Knight
Colombo 7

They too have rights

It is likely that a new Constitution embodying the aspirations of the people of Sri Lanka will be brought forth by about the middle of this year. 

I, therefore, consider this an opportune moment to request the framers of the Constitution to take note of the fact that there are nearly 600,000 Sri Lankan nationals gainfully employed in various parts of the world who have been deprived of exercising their civic right of casting their votes at national and provincial elections held in their motherland.

Up to date, no Government has given serious consideration to this problem and these people have been virtually disenfranchised for no fault of theirs. They form a sizeable fraction of our voting population and it is therefore imperative that provision should be made to grant them the facility of postal voting at the Sri Lanka High Commissions, embassies and consulates spread throughout the world.

Most progressive countries have enshrined this provision in their Constitutions which has enabled their nationals employed or resident in foreign countries to cast their vote. Our immediate neighbour India is a case in point.

W.O.H. Indraratne

Parks are fine, not so the tracks

We arrived in Sri Lanka from Germany in mid-January to do a tour of your beautiful country. During our tour one stop was Udawalawe. We got into two jeeps at Embilipitiya and drove to the Udawalawe national park where we saw many elephants including babies, peacocks, spotted deer, a couple of tortoises, some jackals, a crested hawk eagle and a couple of birds of prey as well as many other kinds of birds. All that was okay, but the only bad thing about this park is that the tracks are in bad shape. They are not maintained. 

We pay a lot of money to spend our holidays in Sri Lanka. There are other countries also which offer safari tours, which are closer to us than Sri Lanka. Travelling in the back of a jeep, being jostled around for more than three hours is not good for the body, specially for old people who are weak. More time was spent on the tracks avoiding potholes and ruts than seeing wild animals. We will recommend this national park to our friends and relatives back home in Germany only if the tracks are improved. 

On January 25 we visited the Yala National Park around 3.30 p.m. There was a line of six jeeps in front of us and more behind us. The wheels of the jeeps churned up so much dust, we could not see anything clearly ahead of us. 

There was only one tracker for three jeeps. Our group was travelling in two jeeps. No animal came near the tracks, because so many vehicles were moving in close formation. Later when the jeeps scattered, we saw spotted deer, peacocks, hens, wild buffaloes, bee eaters, pelicans, painted storks, hornbills, wild boar, a wild rabbit and a small herd of elephants far away. On our return we saw two jungle fowls at two different places and a jackal elsewhere, after spending more than three hours in the park! 

We like to suggest that only two or three jeeps be sent in at a time from the park office. The next group should be sent after an interval of 10 to 15 minutes. This way the wild animals would not be disturbed and people will get their monies' worth. After one batch has driven past, there will be time for the dust to settle, before the next one arrives. If not tourists will complain to their travel agents after returning to their countries and also tell others and it will be difficult to sell safari tours in Sri Lanka. 

W. Chlumsky Mainz 


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