Letters to the Editor


The Truth Commission and false promises

President Chandrika Kumaratunga appointed a Truth Commission to inquire into the attacks on innocent Tamils in July 1983 and to consider adequate compensation, many years after the incidents.

This is the least any concerned and civilized society should do. The eminent panel of commissioners is headed by a highly respected former Chief Justice. It is understood that the commission held several public sittings in Colombo. Those who testified are said to have left with the impression that the commission will duly compensate them without delay in the cases the commissioners recommend as warranted.

It is several months since the deliberations were finalised and the report handed over to the President in the full glare of publicity. But no compensation has been paid yet.

While the Presidential Secretariat is supposed to have quickly forwarded the papers to the Cabinet, the papers are stuck there: The reason being finances. There is also a fear that the commission's recommendations may be resisted by REPIA on the grounds of "insufficient documentation", "supporting papers" etc., although the commission looked into these matters carefully. It is also rumoured that whatever the commissioners have recommended, compensation would only be paid in very small and insignificant amounts, disproportionate to the losses of the victims. REPIA authorities have informed several callers that lack of funds is likely to prevent them from complying with the recommendations. If so, it will once again be a case of false promises to a community whose list of grievances keeps growing. Even at this late hour, the President and the Prime Minister, both known to be non-communal and sympathetic to the minorities, should look into the matter and implement the commission's recommendations.
V.S. Sathanandan

Let LTTE sell its weapons and rebuild Jaffna

Suicide bombings and other attacks by the LTTE created much mayhem and destruction in Sri Lanka. The damaged buildings in the south of the country were repaired with taxpayers' money in no time. However, buildings in the north were not repaired because of the LTTE and today donors get the wrong picture that only the north bore the brunt of the war.

As the LTTE was instrumental in causing the destruction, it should do the repairs. Surely, the LTTE can dispose of some of its weapons and with the billions earned repair the buildings as the government did with the taxpayers' money in the south.

I left Jaffna due to LTTE harassment 10 years ago. It is due to ethnic binding that the average Jaffna man is tolerating the LTTE. If an election takes place in Jaffna without the gun culture, I have no doutbt that the LTTE will be out-voted for a moderate party like the TULF. Unfortunately, the TULF and other parties in Jaffna have no backbone to resist the LTTE. When Rajan Hoole and K. Sritharan, both professors of the Jaffna University revealed the atrocities of the LTTE, they had to run away to save their lives. The high-handed activities of the LTTE do not allow any other party to exist. Very soon the LTTE will hoodwink the Muslim parties by giving promises which will never be kept.

The government has to be careful with the peace talks. The LTTE is not trustworthy. Hadn't the September 11 tragedy in the US taken place, the LTTE would still be fighting.
Param Kandy

War veterans seek British justice

I would like to recount a story I have heard with regard to Lord Louis Mountbatten and British justice.

During World War II, two Ceylonese soldiers were returning to their camp one evening. This was a period when the soldiers were dissatisfied with the treatment meted out to them.

The two soldiers met a Britisher who was also going in the same direction. Chatting to him they voiced their displeasure over the treatment given to Ceylonese soldiers by the British. When they arrived at a large gate where a naval sentry was on guard, the sentry had stood to attention and saluted the British. When the soldiers wanted to make a hurried departure, the Britisher had invited them to his mansion and offered them a drink. When they were leaving, the gentleman had wished both of them and said, "Please do not forget the English language and British justice". This incident took place nearly 60 years ago and the Britisher was none other than Lord Louis Mountbatten, Supreme Allied Commander of the South East Asia Command (SEAC).
The story is an example how the late Mountbatten respected Ceylonese soldiers during World War II. Those boys who fought in that war are today old and feeble men, over 70 years. Most of them are non-pensioners. A small monthly grant of Rs. 500 is paid to them by the British Commonwealth Ex-Services League through the Sri Lanka Ex-Servicemen's Association. They are in need of medicine, which cost a lot today. They also need nourishment.

To strengthen their appeals, the soldiers formed themselves into an association known as the Ceylon War Veterans of World War II in August 1997. What they need is British justice, the kind that Lord Mountbatten spoke of.
H.G.P. Jayasekera
Ceylon War Veterans' Association of World War II

Death penalty: then and now

The current topic whether to enforce the death penalty or not, has resulted in quite a number of letters, from individuals and groups such as the CRM, expressing their views. One of the key points raised is in regard to the miscarriage of justice and as an example, the case of M. Sathasivam, the all- Ceylon cricketer has been cited.

About 50 years ago, a case of murder, rape, robbery or arson was sensational, because these were exceptions and not the rule. The day was normally peaceful. But now it is different as murder, rape etc. are the rule.

Not the solution

The possibility of introducing the death penalty in our thrice-blessed country is shocking.

The argument that the introduction of the gallows will dramatically reduce the rate of homicide is not plausible and has not been substantiated.The possibility of innocent people being sent to the gallows, due to a miscarriage of justice cannot also be ruled out. Besides, hanging is an obsolete practice.

Hanging is not suitable for countries, which practise a democratic way of life, for it is a denial of basic human rights.
Ranjan Amerasinghe

Before the death sentence is passed the judge goes through all the evidence. When the case is concluded, he gives in detail all the evidence led, to enable the jury to ponder over its verdict. Where he is convinced, the jury is erring, he asks that the matter be reconsidered and there are instances of judges ordering a retrial before a new jury. Judges, too, have consciences. The chances of erring are great indeed

where it is a case of discharge or acquittal. But in pronouncing the death sentence, erring is rare. The dictum, 'It is better that 10 men escape than one innocent man be hanged' had a lot of weight then but today the situation is different.
Another point raised is the delay in the enforcement of justice.
The next point raised is about the police. Let me give one example. A student from a Nawalapitiya vocatinal training centre was going back to her line room, about an hour's walk. She left at 12.30 p.m. but never reached home. Her body was found the next day. She had been gang-raped and murdered. There was public agitation; the Gampola Police took over the investigation. The body was exhumed. Suspects have been arrested and the case is going on.
According to a recent newspaper report two of the suspects who had turned crown witness have now allegedly gone back on their statements.
S. Thambyrajah

No relief yet for pre-1988 pensioners

I retired on June 8, 1984, as Chief Station Master, Gampola and am now drawing a monthly pension of Rs. 5,538 which is hardly sufficient to meet my food-bill.

I retired on the maximum of the salary scale applicable to the grade.

My subordinates who retired after1988 are drawing much higher pensions. Various salary commissions were appointed to look into the anomalies of pensions, but so far no relief has been granted to the pre-1988 pensioners.
J.P. Wickremasuriya

Where have the rehab funds gone?

The people of Jaffna often see and read about demonstrators calling on the government to remove the High Security Zone from residential areas to enable civilians to occupy their houses and lands, a justifiable request.

At the same time there are many people in other areas who are unable to move into their houses, awaiting financial assistance from the Rehabilitation Ministry for repairs. I am a government pensioner. My house in Inuvil was damaged during a military operation in 1992. My family and I had to move out. We are now living in a rented house paying a high rent which is a strain on my limited pension. In 1999, I applied for financial assistance to repair my damaged house, submitting all documents such as a police report, photocopies of the deed and plans, to the AGA’s office.

Later my application, along with a report from the National Housing Department, was forwarded to the Jaffna Divisional Secretariat in September 2001. Though I have called at the Rehabilitation Office many times, I have only been informed that payment would be made whenever funds for rehabilitation are received. Is the full amount of funds given by foreign countries being utilised for rehabilitation or for other purposes?
A Displaced Civilian

We pay for their rackets

It is about time that the people put a stop to the rackets carried out by politicians. Every time a new government is installed, at least one or two politicians file court action and eventually some state institution ends up coughing out millions as damages. This money does not belong to institutions or board members, it belongs to the people.

All such fines as determined by court should be paid by the relevant minister, including the ministry secretary and the board that served the institution at the time of the incident.
R. Perera

Crossing is dangerous here

Crossing the road near Tudella church on the Negombo-Colombo Road is dangerous. Motorists using this stretch of road have little regard for pedestrians. A young girl was knocked down at this point and the next day, two children and their father who were on a motorcycle were involved in an accident resulting in the death of the children.
It is time that a speed limit is strictly imposed between Tudella junction and Ja-ela Police Station. Traffic lights should also be installed at the pedestrian crossings in front of the Tudella church, at the Tudella junction and near the Ja-ela Bank of Ceylon.
Herby Tucker

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