Letters to the Editor


What peace is not
This is with reference to 'Who started the horror?' by D.M. Wijewardena (September 1) in reply to my letter of August 18.

I reply not so much to defend myself, but to pick up some of the issues raised by Mr. Wijewardena.

The first has to do with digging the past. Unfortunately, whatever Anton Balasingham (or even Ranil Wickreme-singhe) may say, merely forgetting the past cannot pave the way to lasting peace. Peace is not made through signed documents; nor can it be secured by monitoring committees.

On the contrary, peace has to come with changes in attitudes; and where there are grievances stemming from the past, attitudes can only be changed by public (and in some cases corporate) confessions and apologies from both sides of the divide. This is what I believe was accomplished by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in South Africa.

I am made to understand from news reports that families of victims are spontaneously calling for reductions in jail terms given to perpetrators of racial violence, when the latter have publicly owned up to their misdeeds; such is the power of confession.

My letter spoke of many other atrocities apart from the July '83 incidents that needed to be condemned. Mr. Wijewardena has highlighted some of them, and I certainly agree and empathise with many of his sentiments. I also recognize that pain, hurt and justifiable anger are feelings experienced by all people in our country.

However, and this is the second issue I wish to raise, confessions by definition have to be unilateral. If I say, "I'm sorry I did this to you, but you did that to me", it is not a confession; it is closer to an argument. It is better to avoid digging the past for arguments; rather, the past could be faced and confessed. At least some such bold, unilateral gestures, at the personal, community or political level are required to promote a genuine and lasting peace.

Such gestures are always risky. They may not be reciprocated by the "other side". One may also be misunderstood by one's "own side".

The third issue is about the promotion of diversity in Sri Lanka.

As Mr. Wijewardena has stated, people have left and will continue to leave the country for greener pastures. (I myself was in London for three and a half years as a graduate student - a privilege very few enjoy).

The question is, however, what our vision for a future Sri Lanka is. Do we try to actively create a climate that encourages people of all backgrounds (including most definitely those from rural Sinhala and Tamil backgrounds) to stay and contribute towards progress, or are we content with a "take it or leave it" attitude towards those who are different from us?

One of the main thrusts of my original letter was that we need to promote diversity, not so much to "be decent to the minorities", but because such diversity tends to produce progress (in the widest sense of the word) by engendering creativity and dispelling sterility of ideas.
Priyan Dias

Making our nation healthier
The World Health Organisation estimates that 1.2 billion adults who smoke affect 700 million children. All non-smokers should rally round and convince the health authorities to introduce legislation against smoking in enclosed areas - public transport, air-conditioned offices, restaurants and conference halls.

Smoking a cigarette produces three different types of tobacco smoke - inhaled smoke, exhaled smoke and sidestream smoke. Smoke in the environment consists of exhaled smoke and sidestream smoke, both of which contain chemical carcinogens and other toxic substances.

Further, the particles of smoke are smaller than those of mainstream smoke and can be inhaled more deeply.

In the past 30 years, evidence has accumulated that children breathing tobacco-polluted air (passive smoking) are subject to respiratory illness, bronchitis, pneumonia, asthma and other chest diseases.

They are also more likely to become snorers or cough during the night due to the chronic effect of smoke on their upper airways.

Research has shown that children with cystic fibrosis who are exposed to tobacco smoke in the home and surroundings are smaller and lighter than those not exposed, suggesting a link between passive smoking and growth and appetite. There has also been some evidence that passive smoking in children affected the development of the brain and accelerated the onset of heart disease.

The report added that the harm caused by passive smoking was "consistent and robust and constitutes a substantial public health threat".

Smoking by either parent during pregnancy is associated with a higher incidence of all childhood cancers, especially lymphocytic leukaemia and lymphoma. Mothers exposed to passive smoking at the workplace have been associated with lower childbirth weight, spontaneous abortion, higher risk of perinatal mortality and cot deaths. There is evidence of cervical cancer being linked to tobacco smoke.

In June this year, the WHO announced that there is overwhelming evidence that passive smoking causes cancer by an increased risk of 20 to 30 percent. Sir Richard Doll, a British scientist first linked smoking to lung cancer 50 years ago.

Now scientists who have examined findings from 50 papers on passive smoking, involving thousands of lung cancer patients have added myeloid leukaemia, liver cancer, stomach cancer, cervical cancer and renal cell carcinoma - a form of kidney cancer.

Twenty-nine researchers from 12 countries drawing on 3000 scientific papers have published a report (WHO's International Agency for Cancer Research - IARC) that firmly concludes that second hand tobacco smoke is carcinogenic to humans. Evidence exists that passive smoking can cause lung cancer (non-smokers married to a smoker are at a 26% greater risk), other lung diseases and cardiovascular disease (30 minutes of passive smoking can significantly compromise the coronary blood circulation). Ref. Journal of the American Medical Association - JAMA.

In addition to this, of course, is the well known 'irritant' effect of tobacco smoke on the eyes and the fetid odour that clings to the clothes. Unfortunately, the general public cannot "strike" to get legitimate demands. However writing to the press and talking about it to people who make decisions will contribute to social and/or legal behaviour that will make our nation healthier.
Andrew David
Colombo 6

A teacher's job is never done
A teacher's job was so rewarding
Tho' the lowest paid - of course
But not any more - Oh no!

A teacher plants a seed of wisdom
And anxiously she tends it and
Watches to see it grow

Each tender leaf - each tiny bud
Is excitingly watched and tenderly nurtured
Outside elements are kept at bay
And by and by it's reward's day!
A child is on the way to success

A teacher's job is never done,
She'll watch her charges grow to adulthood
She'll follow them across the years,
Their joys are hers, so too their tears
And they? Do they forget their teacher?
It has been proved that it's not so
Wherever they roam, wherever they go
The teacher's values, the teacher's love
Will be their guiding star
But not anymore

The cause?

Interfering parents say,
"My child is my jewel
A tender plant,
Don't scold, don't cane, don't humiliate my child"

They do not say, "Don't love my child,
Nor bother him to study -
Don't this, don't that,
Just let him be - but
If he fails his grades,
Then we will blame you."

But these jewels, these tender flowers,
Tell their teachers how their parents
Punish them.
They kick them, they belt them,
They humiliate them, withhold food
Withhold love - lock them up
In darkened rooms - and so it goes
You'll be surprised

But why should you be surprised?
It's the parents way of
Shielding them from hostile teachers!
Pearline L. Withana

Urgent need to train teachers
I found Dr. Y.O. Indraratne's letter 'Education system: Little room for choice' on August 28, useful and current.

Being a teacher for the past 28 years and having had the opportunity to work in both the government and private sectors, I agree with Dr. Indraratne that for too long we have heard lame excuses such as "Where are the teachers?"

As stated by Dr. Indraratne, effective teacher training programmes to ensure the English medium being introduced to schools, are necessary.

The British School in Colombo has identified this need and started a programme designed to train teachers to teach in the English medium and also teach English as a global language more effectively. The course incorporates many new teaching methods which will be useful in ensuring the switch to student-centred education, one of the primary thrusts of the education reforms.
Nirmali Wickremasinghe
Colombo 6

Join hands to fight crime
The rate at which crime is increasing is quite alarming. Abductions and rape seem to have become the order of the day.

What is baffling is that despite security measures being taken by the government, there is no drop in the crime ratio. What is shocking is that these crimes, particularly robberies are being committed in broad daylight.

It is difficult to say who should be blamed, but the police cannot always be the scapegoats. It is time that we, like responsible citizens, fight crime with police help. We should stand up to this menace, join hands and fight rather than becoming victims.

Meanwhile, the police should convene meetings of citizens' groups and formulate a scheme to overcome this problem.
Rasa Weerasingham
Colombo 5

Lawlessness and injury
The pavements on either side of Galle Road in Moratuwa have been invaded by three-wheeler drivers and sales vans, transforming them into vehicle parks.

Schoolchildren have met with accidents when they stepped onto the road to avoid packed pavements. Speeding mo-bikes had caused them injury.

Authorised stands for parking will eliminate this lawlessness and injury.
C.L. Terence Fernando

Defacing what's clean and tidy
The Chief Station Master and staff of the Gampola Railway Station are taking a lot of pains to keep the station clean and tidy. After a train departs, the platform and verandahs are swept and on Sundays the platform and benches are washed.

However, their efforts are hindered due to the pillars and lattice work on the roadside being defaced by various posters.

These posters should be removed and notices fixed banning posters.
J.P. Wickremasuriya

'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.