World - By the Seeker
week we introduce a new column in our 'Letters to the Editor' page
to enable you, our dear reader to focus on a crucial matter which
affects us personally and also the country at large. We have picked
on the heavy homework load schoolchildren have to bear during the
holidays to launch our column. Send in your views on our 'focus
issue' of the week, so that the powers that be would know what you
have to say about their decisions. Write in to us, making it short
and snappy. Letters should be sent to "Your World" The
Sunday Times. P.O. Box 1136, Colombo.
Gone are the
days when holidays were fun
What a wonderful time, the holidays are here.
The roads are
not snarled up with traffic and weary parents sigh in relief. The
daily grind is forgotten for a while - shaking awake bleary-eyed
kids, getting them to at least have a morsel of breakfast, packing
their tiffin boxes, and either seeing them off in the van or dropping
them at school. Then the picking up in the afternoon or anxiously
awaiting their return in that jam-packed van, taking them for this
class or that, for swimming, netball, cricket or music.
time, the evenings of course, are taken up with poring over books
and prodding children to finish the massive load of homework, before
falling into bed and then starting the routine all over again next
Have the holidays
really changed anything? Like in the days gone by, do children go
to the zoo or for a sea bath, relax at home, read, play imaginary
games, watch the birds or just laze around and enjoy the "no
care" period of childhood?
Ask any parent,
and they hold their heads in horror. The kids, starting from as
young as five just don't have holidays anymore. If their "homework"
load is burdensome during schooldays, it has doubled or trebled
during the holidays. Collect this and that, do Pages 10 to 30 in
this book, 50 sums for maths............the list goes on and on.
has two children, a boy and a girl, attending Colombo schools. Since
the holidays began on April 10, they are hardly out of the house.
The other day, I saw them both labouring over their books, in an
attempt to finish pages and pages of homework assigned by their
respective teachers. Their mother's pressure seems to be on a high,
as she keeps asking them whether they have done that project for
environmental studies, completed all the sums and memorised the
long list of spellings.
Is this what
the much-vaunted reforms are all about? Parents thought that the
change in the education system would herald a new life for children.
That rote learning would be banished and cut-throat competition
even among young kids would be a thing of the past. There are many
good things about the reforms. The children see, touch and learn
the things that were earlier spewed out by teachers in an abstract
manner. The foundation is good, but the authorities need to take
a long hard look at the homework burden on kids.
Are we attempting
to mould children with a rounded character, who will become good,
honest adults, with a wide general knowledge or robots who know
nothing beyond their books? Over to you, National Institute of Education.
semi-desert looms large
In the state of euphoria surrounding the peace talks, the government
is likely to lose sight of other issues that need priority. One
such is the urgent need to conserve rainforests. The felling of
trees has been going on at a hectic pace unhampered by the law.
The lorryloads of logs lumbering along the Kottawa-Piliyandala Road
on their way to the saw mills at Moratuwa are proof enough. Why
and how are a large number of permits issued to deplete our forests?
If a survey
is done on the devastation caused to forests and rainfall figures
in the past five or six years, there will be a tell-tale correlation
between the number of trees axed and rainfall figures.
data, we can come to a conclusion why Sri Lanka is experiencing
such severe droughts.
It is the constant
lament of those in charge of electricity that the rainfall in the
catchment areas is insufficient to generate power. In fact, the
proposed Upper Kotmale Project would be a futile exercise at the
rate forests are being destroyed. All the streams feeding the reservoirs
will dry up. Let alone, water for hydro generation, there will not
be sufficient water for irrigation purposes.
Given the enormity
of the problem, environmentalists should focus on the need to conserve
our forests. Tough legislation prohibiting forest destruction should
In Dubai a man
cutting a tree is liable to a fine of 600 Dirhams and a six-month
prison term. Determined to have a green mantle, these desert dwellers,
plant trees in the barren sands and painstakingly nurture them with
water from a desalination plant.
Ministry should launch a massive re-forestation scheme to cover
the Moneragala and Hambantota areas before work on Upper Kotmale
Those days the stretch between Mirigama and Negombo was, more or
less, a coconut grove. Now, houses have been constructed at random,
ignoring the danger to the underground water table. If this trend
is not arrested desalinated water will have to be transported inland.
Unless the government
takes urgent steps to curb the axing of trees, Sri Lanka will turn
into a semi-desert.
up a battered land
In March, I accompanied some foreign medical personnel to the north,
an area hitherto closed to us. My last visit had been over 40 years
ago and the memories I had of well-laid out houses discreetly covered
at eye level with GI sheet or palmyrah leaf fences were no more.
I saw houses
without roofs, with only the battle-scarred walls standing. What
remained was only the rich soil, studded with landmines. Small businessmen,
traders, cycle repair shops and bakers who kept the peninsula throbbing
with activity were nowhere.
A few wizened
farmers were cultivating land - the produce only for their consumption
and not for sale, as in the past.
there will be much government to government aid flowing in for rebuilding.
But if this development assistance is to be used effectively, it
will require a massive effort in administration.
From where will
this come? Foreign governments, donor agencies and NGOs who are
coming in with financial help will have to be convinced that their
funds will not be misused.
It is important
that a task of this magnitude should be handled in a professional
It should be
undertaken by experienced development lending organizations such
as the NDB and the DFCC to ensure that funds are not misused.
they honest brokers?
Everyone in Sri Lanka wishes for peace. Yet media reports have expressed
reservations about the Memorandum of Understanding signed by LTTE
leader Velupillai Prabahakaran and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe.
Norway is the
cat's paw of the United States and Europe. Norway, Britain and the
US have vested interests in the north and east of the country. Discerning
citizens feel that these countries are not honest brokers, but playing
a diabolic role to divide the nation.
They have urged the government to devolve excessive power to the
periphery to weaken the centre. Subsequently they will grant aid
to the north and east to strengthen those areas, so that Eelam would
become a reality.
The north and
east are strategically important in the geopolitical landscape of
Asia, especially as China is growing stronger. Trincomalee is dubbed
the world's best natural harbour. There is evidence of oil in Pesalai
on the Mannar coast. These valuable natural resources obviously
tempt the US, Britain and Norway.
The LTTE, eager
to make its dream of Eelam a reality will fully back the three neo-colonial
powers to gain support.
Whilst thanking your medical correspondent for the complimentary
things said about the administration of Sri Jayewardenepura Hospital
during the first five years of its existence, the name of the then
Director, Dr. R. C. Rajapakse, who was a bulwark of the administration
at that time was omitted.
Pieris, Dr. Rajapakse, and myself kept 24 hr surveillance to maintain
our motto: "The Patient is King".
From your article
it appears that the present Chairman, Dr. H. H. R. Samarasinghe
too is quick to respond to the needs of the patients.
Dr. Narme Wickremesinghe
Former Deputy Director, SJH
the humanity, where's the concern?
On April 15, the New Year holiday, I had to take my daughter to
Sri Jayewardenepura Hospital, Emergency with a deep cut on her knee,
bleeding and in pain. I was allowed to drive in and the security
staff in the emergency ward was very courteous.
There were only
five seats in the hall and I was asked to sit there with my child
crying in pain. A kind nurse told us that there was only one lady
doctor on duty and a patient was walking in every five minutes.
An old patient came in with a catheter and urinated all over the
chair and on the floor. A nurse asked a person who came with him
to clean the place.
After 30 minutes
a nurse came and cleaned my daughter's wound and another nurse started
filling the forms. Then I was asked to go in and pay the cashier
for an X-ray. I went in to the X-ray unit and there was no one.
A big log book lay on the table. All air conditioning units were
All my attempts
to locate this person were in vain. The security staff was very
concerned and helped me to locate the person who was supposed to
be on duty there. I was desperate, with my daughter really needing
In sheer disgust,
I left the place after one and a half hours. As a private sector
executive my company pays my medical bills as long as I am employed.
But what is
the plight of the innocent, poor, helpless masses of this country?
School teachers, principals, civil servants and private sector people
like us, depend and expect government hospitals to show some humanity
come and go but the mentality and attitude of our medical staff
are here to stay.
There is no
discipline in this sector and all that the key people can do is
to talk and plan. When it comes to implementation we all fail. I
hope the Minister or the Director of the hospital will ask for explanation
from this person, why he went missing from 5 - 6.p.m.
is spending colossal amounts but there is no accountability. Why
can't the government collect Rs.100 a month from the working masses
and ensure a better health service to the people of this country.
At least public and private sector employees will have a dignified
and secure retirement.
Please get rid
of people who cannot take responsibility, show some humanity to
fellow Sri-Lankans and recruit unemployed graduates who will value
correct name boards
Although I live in Colombo, I had to recently cash a People's Bank,
Dematagoda branch cheque. So I took two buses from Colpetty via
Pettah all the way to Dematagoda.
At the bank
I was told at the counter that it was not the correct branch and
was directed to another branch which was also in Dematagoda. All
this hassle could be avoided if the banks specified their branch
names for the convenience of customers.
the jaunts, do the work
Half the number of ministers and deputies have gone abroad, some
on official work, others on personal tours. What they should remember
is that the country still records a negative growth rate.
the most urgent foreign trips should be undertaken. All other jaunts
should be put on hold and the work in the country dealt with.
P. A. Binduhewa
to mud hole
The Parliament grounds were green a few days ago, but now somebody
has ploughed up the area and nobody knows why.
come here for relaxation, walks and fresh air. Now the grounds are
a mess - a mud hole and an eyesore.
I went to the Ministry of Lands at Battaramulla to inquire about
a land acquisition case recently.
A Deputy Director
in the Lands Division attended to my problem swiftly. The relevant
file was missing but he deployed two of his officers to find it
among a heap of papers.
He also telephoned the Ministry of Education which is involved in
the acquisition and got them to respond as well.
action by a public officer is heartening. If all public officers
work like this Sri Lanka will certainly be a better place to live
I. A. Hameed
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