Letters to the Editor

9th December 2001

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Sour experiences like these could damage tourism

My Sri Lankan-born wife and I recenltly travelled from Australia to spend three weeks touring the island with our daughter, son-in-law and two grand-daughters, aged 9 and 11. For our son-in-law and grand-daughters it was their first visit to Sri Lanka and we were eager for them to have an enriching experience.

As employees of Australian news organisations, we were well aware of the latest developments around the world, including Sri Lanka. We knew about the airport attack and subsequent events in the US, but decided to embark on our trip. We were of course ignoring the explicit advice of the Australian government to postpone any unnecessary travel to Sri Lanka.

My wife and I assured the rest of the family that while the airport attack had been serious, the security forces would be on high alert to prevent a repetition.

After our arrival in Sri Lanka we assured them again that the numerous armed soldiers and police were evidence of the security forces treating the threat of terrorist attacks seriously.

No one in our party was in the least annoyed whenever the mini-bus we hired from a well-known travel agency was stopped at road blocks. On all but one occasion we were waved on as soon as the police or soldiers on duty saw that we were tourists.

The exception occurred close to the Buddha statue on the Tissamaharama Road near the Wellawaya junction at 11.45 a.m. on September 28. It was not a road block as such, but a police officer, who I believe was a Reserve Sub-Inspector, stepped onto the road and indicated to our driver, to stop. 

He pulled over, and we all watched as the officer walked to the other side of the road and started talking to another policeman under his direction, who was in the process of giving a "ticket" to a motorcyclist. Eventually, the police officer turned his attention back to us, and in a supercilious manner, signalled that the driver should alight from the vehicle. We then waited for about 10 minutes while he was interrogated on the roadside, wondering what was going on. Later we discovered that the driver had been "booked". To our amazement, the charge sheet No. 11A 755956 indicated it was the shape of the number plate. 

The reason was that a small piece of plastic was broken from the plate, which in no way prevented the number from being read easily. 

Our driver protested, but was not abusive, and to this day I have no idea why the officer took the action he did.

With the country at war, and having numerous other problems requiring police attention, here was a police officer delaying our journey and forcing our driver to pay a fine of Rs. 500 at the next post office (or return all the way from Colombo to fight the case in court). If we had been speeding it would have been different.

On the same stretch not long after we noticed a vehicle with a number plate made of cardboard (difficult to read the actual number) and another with no number plates!

Such incidents sour the experience of tourists. A few more like that Reserve Sub Inspector in Wellawaya could easily put the final nail in the coffin of the ailing Sri Lankan tourism industry.

Lindsey Arkley

Paying a price for winning

I won Rs. 100,000 from the 'Vasana Sampatha' lottery of the National Lotteries Board. When I forwarded my winning ticket to the NLB on November 12, I was asked to come at 9 a.m. on November 20 to collect the cheque.

On the due date, I went to the NLB and handed over the receipt which I had been given and was asked to put my signature on a Rs.20/-stamp. (They charged Rs. 22 for the stamp). Then I was asked to wait till the "Mahaththuru" came. A few others like me came to collect their cheques. At 10.30 a.m. we were taken to the third floor and had to wait another 20 minutes. Later we were summoned to another room, where there was a videographer and a cameraman. When I told them not to take my photograph when I collect the cheque, they insisted that I should appear for the photographs. The videographer told me they were filming me to prove my identity. I told him that I proved my identity by giving my National Identity Card to the counter.

At 10.50 the "Mahaththuru" including the newly appointed Chairman came to hand over the cheques. Before I could explain the situation, the videographer told the Chairman that I was refusing to appear in the pictures. The Chairman also insisted I should, but I refused. Then the Chairman warned me that he would withhold my cheque if I refused. He told me that it was a regulation of the NLB. I had to appear for the photos to get my cheque.

I seek clarification from the authorities:

* To prove one's identity should he/she be photographed at the NLB?

* Is there a law giving the NLB power to take the winners' photos?

* Can the NLB publish the winners' photos without their consent?

* If the NLB publishes the photos without the winners' consent, isn't it a violation of their rights.

* If a winner does not like to be photographed can the Chairman withhold the cheque?

Disgusted Winner

Where has it all gone?

Was it yesterday
We strolled freely
Down memory Lane?
Happy and carefree,
Loving life
In our resplendent isle
Where has it all gone?

Down to earth in blood and tears,
With such sorrow and strife,
Fear, bitterness and despair
Where, oh where?

Now here we are,
Trying hard to hold our heads up
Half living
And with only sweet memories and dreams
Of bygone days, to sustain us

Freedom, tranquillity, peace where are you?
Gone forever
Was it yesterday we enjoyed you?


Don't forget private sector

It is commendable that the government has granted relief in the form of a salary increase to government servants and pensioners. But what of the poor private sector employees? This exclusion of private sector employees is unfair. A reasonable increment should be granted to them to survive the high cost of living. We appeal to President Chandrika Kumaratunga to use the same spoon for us too.

The worst off are those employed in the hotel industry.

M.A.J. Samath 

Peaceful sleep

Thank you for publishing my letter regarding the eradication of mosquitoes without any expense, in an environmentally-friendly way. 

I was surprised by the number of readers who phoned me in appreciation.

There were also a few questions raised such as, should the bag containing the water be kept open or closed? Although it does not matter, for eradication purposes it is better to close the bag. There is also no need for the water to be changed everyday. The bag needs to be thick (for practical purposes) and should be of clear polythene. The bags should be left where the mosquitos enter the house. 

According to my Spanish friend, the mosquitoes apparently see their reflections as monsters as the clear polythene magnifies them. Although I laughed at his explanation what matters is that it works. 

I also keep a bag on the floor near my bed. Oh! the bliss of not having the buzzing of mosquitoes. Silence indeed is golden at night.

If other readers need to clarify anything they could contact me at 5, Barnes Place, Mount Lavinia or on tel: 717832.

Seetha Wanigatunga

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