Letters to the Editor

24th December 2000

Check those buses

The new Minister of Transport appears to be doing a commendable job. I wish him all success.

The thing he should now do is to tame the wild asses, the private bus crews. They seem to be a law unto themselves. 

They do not seem to care two hoots for the safety and comfort of those who travel in their buses. If a bus is not fully packed they linger for hours at bus halts and then crawl like a snail but if they see a bus overtaking them they chase it. If a person has to keep an appointment and if he has to travel by a private bus he should at least start one hour before the usual time of departure. 

Sex perverts and pickpockets love to travel in overcrowded buses. Most bus conductors forget to give the balance due and commuters are often deprived of a rupee or two.

Bus inspectors in civvies should be deployed in private buses to stamp out these malpractices.

I hope and wish the new minister would be able to remedy these shortcomings.

P.M. Gunasekara

Let's give peace a chance

Now that at last, Prabhakaran has given us a gift horse of 'peace negotiations without conditions', let us not try to pry open its mouth and count its teeth, but see whether it can, if not race, at least trot along with the government. 

However we ordinary citizens of Sri Lanka would want certain basics: That every Sri Lankan, whether he or she be a Sinhalese, Tamil, Muslim , Burgher, Malay or even Veddah, should have the right to go anywhere in our beloved island without fear or favour and live anywhere within Sri Lanka.

Foreign Affairs, Defence, Communications, which will include all harbours should be in the hands of the central government.

Whether we call the internal divisions provinces as the British have done or regions as the President wants does not matter as a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.

But we must ensure that Prabhakaran's gift horse does not turn out to be a Trojan horse. For this we must have an international team consisting of personnel from India (preferably from the North), Norway, Britain and America and our own Army policing the North and East to see that no hidden powerful military might is built up in the heart of the Wanni not only to wrest an Eelam from our beloved country but to create a greater Eelam of Dravidistan.

Hubert E. Weerasooriya

Let them bring duty-free cars

Sri Lankans working abroad are the biggest foreign exchange earners for the country and now comes the news that remittances from Lankans abroad surpass 6% of the GDP.

Ministers and MPs have been allowed duty-free cars and certain categories of government employees are also given this concession. Then again our cricketers were given duty- free cars. Our cricketers brought only fame to the country but Sri Lankans working abroad bring in FOREX regularly without which this country would be in dire straits.

Therefore it is nothing but fair that the government in return allow the duty-free import of vehicles - be they vans, cars, motor cycles etc., depending on the FOREX remitted by each person, the number of years served abroad etc. 

This will also serve as an incentive for more FOREX to be remitted to Sri Lanka.

There have been numerous letters on this subject over the years but no Finance Minister has cared to make any official comment.

I am therefore confident that our generous President, who is also Minister of Finance with her sense of fairplay and justice will look into this matter and grant redress to all Sri Lankans working in various parts of the globe.

Vernon Dawson

Costs of unprincipled opportunistic politics

"We will have to repent in this generation not merely for the vitriolic words and actions of the bad people, but for the appalling silence of the good people" - Mark Twain.

I have been driven into this submission very much in response to representations made in the media by the Vice Chancellor, Peradeniya University in the context of the most recent law and order situation - in fact, its breakdown - on that campus. The VC is obviously wringing his hands in sheer desperation.

Ragging has reached such dreadful levels which no decent society can any longer tolerate. So, all good men and women in this country should be right behind the VC Peradeniya and his staff at this time in the measures they have taken in this regard. And let dirty politics take a back seat for once. Society is defined as an organised community with a common purpose. So, a society could be indecent as well. It could be an organised community whose common purpose can be good, bad or ugly. It can range from an underground grouping intent on murder and mayhem to a religious grouping centred on peace, goodwill and prosperity. 

However, at the end of the day, in a functioning democracy, for instance, the community at large would also have in place an apex group responsible for good governance within the entire community. It is indeed such an apex group generally elected to such positions, through the free choice of the people at large, which enacts the necessary laws/statutes to ensure the prevalence of law and order within the community at large. So this apex group of lawmakers would of necessity require to abide by the laws they themselves enact for the well-being of the total society. 

Basically, no one in a real democracy can be above the law. But, the moment law-makers choose to become law-breakers, either directly or indirectly, that indeed would be the beginning of lawlessness and anarchy in that community. And, such situations of lawlessness and anarchy generally takes place over a period of time with the rot that sets in at the top seeping to the lower levels of the community.

So, isn't it in this context that one needs to view the on-going student hooliganism on our campuses notwithstanding the fact that as decent members of an even indecent society, one would yet want deterrent punishment meted out to these culpirits on our campuses. However, could it be that the student body - in reality a fraction of that body - of the Peradeniya campus at this time, resisting punishment meted out to fit their criminal offences on campus be literally voicing a sentiment - look here, our "so-called betters" in the highest legislature of this country are being rewarded all over again in spite of the gravest of offences committed against the totality of society in the most recently conducted General Election of the country. So why do you choose to punish us in our situation? Can our law-makers from the Executive President downwards please take note of this reality. 

Would they even at this hour of mid-night not comprehend the social crimes committed against the flower of the youth by wrong example.

Unprincipled and opportunistic politics have contributed to numerous other social crimes over the years since national independence with no ruling party less guilty than another, so to say. Going on a random harvest of such crimes one could recall some of the more serious ones as : - 

This was when all four Poya days in the month were considered non-working days to the exclusion of the traditional Sunday. 

The traditional Saturday half-day was substituted by what came to be called the pre-poya half-day. So we literally found ourselves cut off from the world of trade for practically one half of each working week. This lunacy (not intended as a pun) did go on for a considerable time and the economic costs to the country is yet to be publicly known - it could yet form the basis for a challenging thesis research project for a student of economics on our several campuses to be hurled against our erring politicos instead of staging "fasts unto death" to no purpose. 

Sanity eventually prevailed and we got back into step with the rest of the world. But nothing was charged to the political lunatics of that day - as usual they go scot-free. Is it only University students and ordinary mortals who fall out of step that get caught up with the law?

The issuance of liquor licenses to our "esteemed" legislators for farming among their political sycophants has been another one of those obnoxious outcomes of opportunistic politics. 

And this in a country avowing to the purest forms of Buddhism and with its leaders often in international bandwagons campaigning against smoking and drinking. 

Thank God again, even late in the day the powers that are at this time appear to have seen the light of day and have now called for the revocation of such liquor licences from legislators. 

Politicisation of sports has, no doubt, being the cruellest of all misdemeanors of our erring legislators in recent years. In these years we have helplessly witnessed the near wrecking of one of our brightest Olympic prospects in the last 50 years as also bringing several areas of sport, particularly cricket to disrepute.

In the last two to three decades criminalisation of politics has been the ugliest feature of Sri Lankan politics. At this time not a day appears to pass without some gruesome murder/murders, rape, gang robbery being recorded and reported. And the nexus between underworld gangsters and powerful politicos has been an open secret for a long time.

No attempt is being made in this submission to highlight the direct costs to the polity of a top heavy legislature with perks and privileges unheard of elsewhere. 

These have had serious comment in recent times in the media. However, in this regard, suffice it to refer to The Sunday Times editorial of 19. 11. 2000, which makes the point that it costs something like Rs. 20,000.00 or more in today's political scenario for a Minister of State to travel from Colombo to Kandy!!

So, in the final analysis, this country has indeed being living a total lie with an equal disregard for honesty for too long - for over 50 years to be precise. And, the question on the lips of a considerable concerned but silent polity must be for how long can a society such as ours, rotten from head to toe be able to sustain itself before the final fall? However, this island nation, home to four of the world's major faiths may in the ultimate anaylysis be not completely forsaken. The Christian belief is that God moves in mysterious ways His wonders to perform. Can we see such a wonder taking place right now before our very eyes? 

I believe so. My reference is to the emergence of an articulate and action oriented group of young persons (the JVP) who have stepped forward for good governance and democracy. 

In a short space of a little over ten years for a grouping branded for its brutal response to problems to have emerged as probably the most democratic of all political parties in this country could probabaly be the miracle of the new Century.

I.P.S Dias,

More about JR

The political column under the heading "UNP gearing to go JR way" in the editorial page of the Sunday Times of December 10 mentions "In 1975, he (the late J.R. Jayewardene) resigned his Colombo West seat in protest against the decision of the government to extend its term by two years and faced the by-election, which he won overwhelmingly.

After the promulgation of the 1972 Republican Constitution, the Parliament was called the National State Assembly (NSA). In fact in 1975 there was no National State Assembly seat existent called Colombo West. 

Then there was the multi-member constituency of Colombo South, which was subsequently divided by a Delimitation Commission into two single member seats - Colombo West and Colombo East, prior to the General Election of 1977.

At the General Election of 1970, the late Mr. J.R. Jayewardene was elected as the First Member for Colombo South and the late Mr. Bernard Soysa as the Second Member. Mr. Jayewardene resigned his NSA seat as the First Member for Colombo South in 1975 and not as the Member for Colombo West. 

However at the General Election of 1977, he was returned to the House as the Member for the newly carved out Colombo West seat.

Satish Goonesinghe

Is that so, PMG?

Recently I went to an Agency Post Office at Kirulapone with five letters for posting under registered cover. All these letters had sufficient Sri Lankan stamps affixed to them as they were personally carried by me from my friends who work abroad. 

This is a normal practice where expatriate Sri Lankans coming on vacation etc. carry thousands of letters for posting locally for quicker delivery. 

The postmistress was very annoyed at my giving her these five registered articles and said "we register letters only if the stamps are bought from here."

I was surprised at her remarks and wondered whether there is any law to say that only stamps purchased from the same post office can be used to post an article from that post office. 

It was only after I explained that I hand carried these items from abroad to be posted from here as they contained valuable Bank Drafts etc. that she attended to them.

Can the postal authorities confirm whether the postmistress was correct in refusing to accept postage stamps purchased from different post offices and used in another PO for registration etc.?

K. Anver

Christ: He opened our eyes

People of our global society belong to various faiths, religions and philosophies. It is extremely narrow-minded to consider that everybody in the world should believe in or follow only one religion or faith. 

The birth of Jesus Christ commenced a new era 2000 years ago in the world. Commonly, we all celebrate and commemorate the new era in the name of Jesus Christ today. 

It is a unique commemorative event for all of us. I would say that it is an invisible and intangible memorial. Most of the people in the world today celebrate and commemorate this particular Christmas more ceremonially than before with honour and glory. Jesus' teaching is very important for our society today, but some do not follow and practise it properly.

He preached and opened our eyes to build a very peaceful and harmonious society. 

He taught decency, righteousness, goodness and love. As mature people and adults we should guide our children according to religious, peaceful and practical principles. 

As we know Jesus said, "Love your neighbours as you love yourself". We all should practise it rather than preach about it. According to that teaching, there is no colour, race or culture bias. On the other hand, we should treat everybody including animals in the same way. "Love" is not for a particular person or people, but for everybody in the globe. 

We all should be aware that He spoke very precisely about love, compassion and generosity. 

These words are very valubale for humanity. He taught us for our benefit. The people who follow and practise this teaching will reap the results before they depart from this world. 

We should know that our neighbours are both the sensible and insensible thing in this ecological environment around us. 

We should fully acknowledge that, they have privileges and rights to live without any fear and disturbances in this world. If we do so, it means we respect both Jesus and His teaching. We all are human beings. His teaching is for all mankind. 

Without any prejudice He treated and loved all people. 

May all beings be well, happy and peaceful!

Merry Christmas and happy new year!

Bhikkhu Horowpothane Sathindriya


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