Letters to the Editor


Your World - By the Seeker

This 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.

During school 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 morning.

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.

My neighbour 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.

A 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.

Even without 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 be introduced.

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.

The Forestry Ministry should launch a massive re-forestation scheme to cover the Moneragala and Hambantota areas before work on Upper Kotmale begins.
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.

North:Building 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.

Without doubt, 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 mannner.

It should be undertaken by experienced development lending organizations such as the NDB and the DFCC to ensure that funds are not misused.
Augustus Vethanayagam

Are 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.
Saybhan Samat

Don't forget Dr. Rajapakse
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.

Dr. Rienzie 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

Where's 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 working unmanned.

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 surgery.

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 and concern.

Health ministers 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.

The government 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 employment.
Shiran Jayagodamudalige

Have 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.
Arun Naagesh

Stop 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.

Therefore, only 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

From green to mud hole
The Parliament grounds were green a few days ago, but now somebody has ploughed up the area and nobody knows why.

Many people come here for relaxation, walks and fresh air. Now the grounds are a mess - a mud hole and an eyesore.
Caring Citizens

Prompt action
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.

Such prompt action by a public officer is heartening. If all public officers work like this Sri Lanka will certainly be a better place to live in.
I. A. Hameed

'Letters to the Editor' should be brief and to the point.
Address them to:
'Letters to the Editor,
The Sunday Times,
P.O.Box 1136, Colombo.
Or e-mail to
steditor@wijeya.lk or
Please note that letters cannot be acknowledged or returned.

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