Letters to the Editor


The Muslim factor: Where SLMC went wrong
The Muslim dimension vis-a-vis the ethnic conflict in Sri Lanka has become a crucial issue that cannot be ignored. Though the ceasefire agreement, which is the foundation for the peace initiative, does not speak about the Muslim factor, the acceptance and accommodation of SLMC leader Rauff Hakeem as the government and independent representative to take up Muslim grievances at the negotiating table becomes inevitable. The people and politicians should maintain a sense of responsibility, restraint and tolerance towards peace negotiations, with prudent constructive criticism rather than wallowing in cynicism which will jeopardize it.

It is the bounden duty of the UNF government, the LTTE and the SLMC to maintain transparency, keeping the people informed about the outcome of peace talk.

The recent agitation against Mr. Hakeem and his answer to the question by an interviewer could have been avoided if the Muslims had been made aware of the arrangements for peace talk in Thailand. This is where the SLMC failed to create awareness about the peace process. Mr. Hakeem's answer was based on the categorization of issues, such as core and contentious issues.

The unit of devolution had not been taken up at the negotiating table when Mr. Hakeem was confronted with the question about the unit of devolution for Muslims in the north and the east. So he had to say that it was not an appropriate time to answer such a question.

But on no instance has he denied the demand for a Muslim administrative unit.

The SLMC rebels can iron out their differences by holding discussions with their leader who has already been identified and accommodated at the negotiating table. Hope the SLMC and other Muslim politicians will work together in the interest of the Muslims to find a solution to their grievances and to enable them to coexist with other communities with dignity, security and self determination.
Dr. U. L. Sarafdeen

Bring back patriotism to education
When considering the present education system, one sees that patriotism is not inculcated in students as national history has been removed from the school curriculum. This is unfortunate. We have a written history of more than 2,500 years and it will be pathetic for people not to have a knowledge of the role their ancestors played.

As far as I am aware, Asian countries such as China and Japan have given a prominent place to the teaching of the history of their countries. Japan was devastated during the last World War but younger generation was able to reach the apex of development during a very short period with their willingness to work hard being fuelled by patriotism. Even during the colonial era, an efficient education system was brought about through the intervention of Buddhists monks such as Rev. Sri Sumangala Nayaka Thera and the revival of Buddhism. We should reintroduce national history and literature to the school curriculum. To get children to pass the Year 5 scholarship examination and get a place in a popular school, parents burden them with an unbearable workload. This creates an exam-oriented mentality, stunting the creative ability and the general intelligence of children. Children confined to classrooms or tutories poring over textbooks have no social awareness and fail in their spiritual qualities. As they have been used to a competitive environment, they become victims to cruel and dangerous thoughts. Therefore, educationists should implement a system that keeps away the exam-prone mentality.

Steps should also be taken to educate the younger generation on the ill-effects of dividing the country. In this connection, the necessity of a constitution based on national unity to suit the aspirations of our people should be emphasized. The proper devolution of power on the north and the east, ensuring the territorial integrity, independence and sovereignty of our country should be considered. Action should also be taken to re-establish the pristine glory of Theravada Buddhism.
S.D. Bandaranaike

The merits of Muslim fast
Fasting is one of the pillars of Islam. From the scientific point of view, many religions have adopted fasting. It was emanated from the Arabic word, 'Sowm' which means not only avoiding food and water, but also possessing self-control over one's habits. Its aim is to gain 'Taqwa' which means to inspire one's soul and prevent wrong things. Fasting embellishes one's soul, character and body.

According to science, one's body is a biological machine. This machine acts as an open system, in which the exchange of materials and energy takes place. Continuous activity brings about defects. Thus servicing and overhauling are required. Fasting provides this overhauling and is considered a 'bio-chemical metabolic exercise'. It maintains the level of hormones in the body. Excess fat which is stored in one's body, while fasting, furnishes most of the fuel required for cellular activity. One's digestive system relaxes during this period and the body develops the habit of working without food and water.

Fasting also develops self-control. Thus fasting is a must in Islam. It is a continuous process and is one of the five pillars of Islam.
Fathima Innath

Death and peace
On my way to work early Monday morning
On my way home every Saturday afternoon
During last year or so
I admired the changes in landscape

Last Saturday afternoon
After its dedication
I visited National Remembrance Park
To pay my tribute and offer merits
To those faded human beings

Some known seniors; some sincere colleagues;
Many unknown juniors
Some fallen; some massacred
Only their names carved in granite
Camaraderie and pleasant memories remain

'Loku', 'Akki' and 'Malli' awaited my arrival at home
They too were husbands; fathers
Blight of their wives and children...
Misery, agony, loneliness.

Serene surrounding reverberated futility of war
Can glorified death justify value of human life?
Plaque at the entrance states, ''Peace and life come from death and strife''.
I left contemplating, "Is death and strife mandatory to peace and life?
Captain (Retd.) Ranjith Wettewa
S.L.N. R.S.P.

Towards a safer pedestrian crossing
It is shocking that many pedestrians including schoolchildren are getting killed at pedestrian crossings. It is equally shocking that the Traffic Police and bodies like the Ceylon Association for the Prevention of Accidents (CESPA) and the Automobile Association of Ceylon are doing little or nothing about it. Now that the war has stopped, it looks as if our roads have become the killing fields. The first thing to look at is whether there is a system in sighting pedestrian crossings. A reader had recently pointed out that some of them are at bends. Most crossings are also not visible even to the pedestrians as the paint has faded. It should be obligatory for the authorities to inspect the crossings regularly.

Motorists should also be made aware that they are approaching a pedestrian crossing. In developed countries there are flashing lights in the form of globes. As a Third World country like Sri Lanka cannot afford such a system, prominent signs should be put up with fluorescent paint in yellow and black on either side of a crossing so that it will be visible to motorists at a reasonable distance of about 20 feet.

At crossings near schools, there should be humps (not mountains) to slow the approaching traffic with warning signs. May I please suggest that the Traffic Police top brass leave their offices periodically and observe what their juniors are doing or not doing on the roads. I have seen notices by the police that motorists will be breathalysed but seldom see that this being done. Many smoke belching vehicles are on the roads but the police do nothing.

Motorists beat red lights but seldom does a policeman give chase and book them. The vast majority of motorists who are law abiding just grin and bear. In Britain, digital cameras have reduced the number of accidents. In the early nineties in Sri Lanka, many motorists used seat belts and there were advertisements by the Traffic Police about a contest. Today nobody bothers. A majority of road accident victims are pedestrians as they have to walk on the roads. The pavements have been taken over by hawkers, garages etc.

Another suggestion I wish to make is that the policemen who direct traffic at junctions and roundabouts should be made visible. Those days there was a permanent wooden platform with a hood. Nowadays a collapsible plastic or aluminum platform can be used. Then the policemen will be able to see the line of vehicles and motorists, in turn can see him. He can see which road is more congested.

Traffic sections should also be computerised. After an accident it is difficult to get a police report for insurance purposes. If computers are installed, the report can be obtained quickly and faxed to the insurance company. The database will also enable the police to identify habitual offenders and detect and prevent crime too.
Law Abiding Motorist,
Etul Kotte

What I saw in Gamani Corea
I read with great interest the speech made by Lakshman Kadirgamar at the Gamani Corea felicitation ceremony at the Dr. N.M. Perera Centre on October 17 (The Sunday Times of October 21). I was not present at the ceremony due to unavoidable circumstances.

I worked under Dr. Corea from 1958 to 1968 when he was the director of National Planning. At that time the National Planning Council included such men as Dr. B. B. Das Gupta, Walwin A. de Silva, D. B. Ellepola and W. T. I. Alagaratnam. Dr. Corea was responsible for the 1959-1968 Ten Year Plan. He got down such eminent economists as Joan Robinson, Oskar Lange, Von Glinstra Bleeker, J. R. and Ursula Hicks, Alan Hall and R.C. Desai. With the help of these men and women and a staff of about 18, he produced the Ten Year Plan, one of the finest economic plans that any Asian country has produced.

Under Dr. Corea, all worked as a team. Under him there was no favouritism. Everyone was given an opportunity of proving himself at international conferences. He sent me as economic advisor to the delegation of Ceylon to the 21st session of the UN General Assembly in 1966.

I have worked in international organisations such as the Commonwealth Secretariat but never have I worked under a man who had the genuine interests of his men like Gamani Corea.

That is why I am delighted to find him appointed as chairman of the South Commission.
F.D.C. Wijesinghe

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