Letters to the Editor


Duplicity and coal controversy
There is no one in Sri Lanka who will not welcome cheap electric power. It is a fact that hydropower is the cheapest natural resource available for power generation, although its one failing is that, it is subject to the vagaries of wind and weather. Nevertheless this has been the mainstay of power supply in this country.

Now it is becoming increasingly difficult to exploit the still available hydro-resources in the hill country.

The next cheapest resource is imported coal but this has also given rise to a string of controversies.

The people have to continue to bear harrowing economic burdens and strains. Certainly no powers, either divine or earthly, seem to care.

In fact all the necessary ground work and feasibility studies for a coal power station at Norachcholai had been completed costing billions of rupees.

Foreign funding for completion of the project was readily available.

But now the entire project has been aborted including the foreign funding facility.

The past and present governments are both guilty of this duplicity.

The present government as a compromise, has now decided to install a coal-power generating complex at Trincomalee, but this gives rise to many contentious issues which the Minister of Power and Energy will have to resolve.

Firstly, the people will certainly want to know whether all the environmental and technical concerns that were adduced against the Norachcholai Project have been successfully circumvented by setting up the project at Trincomalee.

Assuming that these have been achieved, there are still some other matters that merit ministerial consideration.

* Norachcholai is a sparsely populated area and hence any harmful effects of a coal project on human life and habitation would have been minimal.

*Trincomalee is a densely populated area with many industries.

* Trincomalee is also the premier military site of Sri Lanka. It behoves a government to ensure that such an environment should remain as far as possible uncluttered and unfettered.

* One of the major objections to a coal project is fine coal dust.

Trincomalee is in the teeth of the north-east monsoon hence the consequences of this are far too obvious to enumerate.

* Most of the hurricanes that devastate this country also hover around the eastern coast.

Its possible impact on the coal project hardly needs elaboration. Norachcholai is free from such disabilities.

* The Norachcholai project was governmental hence power generation costs etc., would have been very nominal, but the Trinco project is to be a private enterprise.

The people of this country know all too well the aftermath of such ventures. Incidentally, the Bishopric claims against the Norachcholai project should be equally tenable for other religious sites as well.

In fact there are many such sites in and around the Trinco area as well.

If such claims are being upheld, no coal power project could be set up in any part of this country.

The way of second generation dharmishta politicos
Unacceptable behaviour by politicians of the ruling party seems to be a common occurrence.

A cabinet minister invades a police station in Colombo with a retinue of followers, occupies the OIC's chair, and has to be persuaded to leave the station by another cabinet minister in the wee hours of the morning. No punishment, no word of reprimand or censure! But a high ranking police officer defends this behaviour by saying that as a cabinet minister he is entitled to sit in the OIC's chair.

In another incident a Pradeshiya Sabha member north of Colombo walks into a police station and pressurizes the police to release 450 gallons of illicit hooch taken into custody. No action has yet been taken against this member.

Another cabinet minister has a tender awarded by his ministry to a tenderer who happens to be the minister's own mother and sister "combo" and has the cheek to defend such award.

This is only the tip of the iceberg! The tabloid press, of course, gives many more instances of abuse of power and privilege by the second generation of "Dharmishta" politicians. Is the Prime Minister aware of these misdemeanours or is he preoccupied with the MoU etc.?

How can the general public trust any politician when the UNF members, within months of assuming power, have developed such thick hides and cultivated such quick tastes for corrupt gains!
N. Amarasekera

Those yelling, glaring lawyers
Though courts are the ultimate destination for justice, it is sad to see harassment of witnesses in the guise of eliciting the truth.

There is a fine difference between asserting a point to establish truth, and intimidating witnesses and frightening the life out of them. This difference, however, is sufficient to derail the course of law. Many witnesses go to court for the first time and are definitely nervous since a lot depends on what is going to happen there. Several of them are from far-flung areas and have absolutely no idea of public speaking. Some of them do not even know to read and write. For some, the issue is a sensitive one, in the context of accepted norms of our society.

It is the bounden duty of the attorneys on both sides to make their experience less harrowing while ensuring they speak the truth.

Instead, some of these attorneys bring the entire profession into disrepute by yelling and glaring at them, and trapping them with their baritones.

A penalty should be imposed on any attorney who loses his temper, raises his voice unnecessarily, or uses any forms of intimidating body language.

Let's not forget that the conduct of attorneys in the court is the window through which the public is looking at the profession. It is also the benchmark of conduct for any law-abiding society.
P. Jayaratnam

Where bad is good for VIPs
I wonder whether it is only in Sri Lanka that a VIP who resigns his post due to disgraceful behaviour is accorded a grand send-off.

The ex-commander of the Air Force resigned when he was caught lying, to cover up his involvement in a road accident, where subsequently a man died.

One musn't forget that he has brought disgrace to a high Government position. He also "embarrassed" a DIG into helping him, in this subtefuge and coerced an Air Force driver to take the rap. The least punishment he deserved is to have been sacked so that he would be deprived of his pension and any other emoluments due to him on retirement. Thereafter, the law should have dealt with him.

But what happened? He has been allowed to resign. He was accorded a parade with a gun salute, which was shown on TV.

It is said that when society is hurtling towards moral decline, what is good appears to be bad, and what is bad appears to be good.
S. Kalupahana

Need for a foolproof NIC
Recently a senior minister shot down a proposal to make it compulsory to produce the National Identity Card (NIC) at voting. His grounds for refusal was that some unscrupulous people could collect NICs by threatening the people and use them for impersonation.

The indispensability of the NIC cannot be overlooked. The NIC is the state recognized legal document for identification. For the purpose of election, the NIC number should be entered against the voter's name on the election list. The photograph on the NIC should establish the voter's identity.

The Elections Commissioner earlier suggested the affixation of a special sticker with a serial number on the voter's card. It was utilized only in one election. The use of an indelible ink that remains for 24 hours, without possible removal by any chemical in the market, is presumably a better proposition. The need for a foolproof NIC has been found wanting. An NIC with the usual signature of the holder and/or thumb impressions and other distinguishing features like visible birth marks or scars will be an ideal safeguard against impersonation.
Stanley Geevaratne

Buddhist clergy should stay out of politics
Ven. Dr. Kollupitiye Mahinda Sangharakkhita Nayaka Thera has said that the solution to the ethnic conflict should emanate from the laity and not from the Buddhist clergy.

What is implied here is that the clergy should stay away from politics. The public in general, would no doubt, agree with his sentiments.

Taking the complexity of Sri Lankan society into consideration given its diverse religious, cultural and social beliefs, political issues could be too complex for the Buddhist clergy to think and act impartially. Instead of being involved in worldly affairs, the clergy could render greater service by engaging in the spiritual and moral welfare of communities. Spreading Buddha's teachings among different communities to guide civil society would be their greatest contribution.
U.M.G. Goonetilleke

Case for illegal migration
The European Union seems to be in a quandary over how to halt the inflow of asylum- seekers and illegal immigrants to their countries. So are the United States and Australia.

These countries are seeking the introduction of legislation to keep immigrants out, especially Muslims, after the September 11 catastrophe.

European countries are hell-bent on halting illegal immigrants even by force. Recent reports from Australia claimed that illegal immigrants had escaped from a detention camp.

However, in terms of natural justice, these hordes of poor, oppressed and deprived people should be able to make their way to the countries of plunderers who, through the centuries have fortified themselves, by exploiting poor nations.
Saybhan Samat

Justice delayed is justice denied
The government appears to be taking no steps to expedite court procedures to help the poor.

Wealthy offenders get maximum legal support and receive moral support from the rulers, while ordinary suspects are locked up in remand, sometimes even before they are found guilty.

Former Minister D. M. Jayaratne introduced a system whereby all lands were to be surveyed, planned and ownership certified to minimise land disputes. It is said that the Australian government had donated 90 million dollars to implement this scheme. What has happened to that?

The delay in courts helps only a small fraction of the public while many are victimized.

A foreign investor who owns 98 percent shares of a TV network sought legal remedy to sort out a dispute against local shareholders. The case is still dragging on. The BOI and those who invited him to invest here are silent. Such incidents only discourage would-be investors. As such, justice must not be delayed under any circumstances.
H.M.P. Wickramaratne

Lankan solutions for Lankan accidents
I was amazed by comments made by a leading lawyer on a television programme on June 30.

He argued that the only way to curb accidents was to impose heavy spot fines - Rs. 5,000 and above - as done in western countries. He has forgotten that this is Sri Lanka and not a western country. We are an under-developed nation where we cannot even afford to repair or maintain our roads. Roads have not been widened for several decades, despite the population boom and the increase in vehicles. In western countries, roads are wide and well maintained, and the drivers too can afford fines to the tune of Rs. 5,000. Here, such fines can be paid only by those who exploit the public. It is better if roads are widened and maintained properly, and every private bus driver is given special training on road manners and courtesy to commuters. Furthermore, route permits should be cancelled, if it is proved that bus owners have employed incompetent drivers.
D. Wijegoonewardena

Adopt strict procedure for heavy vehicle licences
It is imperative on the part of the Government and Registrar of Motor Vehicles to take immediate steps to curb road accidents. Road safety should be made part of the government's policy.

Secondly, issue of licences to drive heavy vehicles should be handled not only by the RMV but also by a competent body consisting of representatives from the RMV and the Traffic Police. All aspects of fitness and suitability of drivers should be looked into before licences are issued.

Unless strict measures are adopted in issuing heavy vehicle licences, road deaths will remain unavoidable.
Vincent Dalima

Let gentle giants live and die free
When elephants are injured in the wilds, rarely do vets go there in time. This is hardly surprising as most vets prefer to set up profitable private practice in the city and suburbs. To fill this void, we must bring down Indian vets who are familiar with the ailments of Asian elephants. Meanwhile, Environment and Natural Resources Minister Rukman Senanayake has said he wanted to set up elephant corridors and plant trees and shrubs that provide sustenance to elephants. But little has been done so far. A local expert recently suggested that some elephants should be captured and tamed. This is an easy way out of a difficult and tragic situation. These gentle giants were born free and should be allowed to live and die free.

The remaining forest cover should be untouched, elephant corridors set up, fodder and water holes maintained and squatters removed. Is this too much to expect from any government?
C. B. Perera
Colombo 4

'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.

Back to Top
 Back to Plus  

Copyright © 2001 Wijeya Newspapers Ltd. All rights reserved.