Letters to the Editor



Peace with honour only lasting peace
Sri Lanka is facing a grave crisis as a result of the serious problems between the government and the President. Vital issues are on hold, with both the UNP and the SLFP waiting for an opportunity to gain political advantage over the other.

In the meantime, the LTTE is advancing and is in a strong position. It is ready to run through the north and the east and seems to have a strategic hold on the country.
While the Tigers have won enough and more concessions, they are still demanding more. They are asking for an Interim Administration for the N-E which appears to be totally unacceptable to the rest of the country.

They have built camps in the government-controlled areas violating the ceasefire agreement. The government has not condemned the Tigers but asked them feebly to dismantle the camp.

Although the President has demanded that the government get the Tigers to dismantle the camp, it has not been able to stand up to the Tigers. For 20 months, this is what Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe has done - allowed the Tigers to do anything they want.

Today with the virtual withdrawal of the armed forces from strategic zones and a drop in morale among the soldiers, we are at the mercy of the advancing Tigers.
Trincomalee, our prized possession, is now under threat. If the Tigers decide to launch an attack, Trincomalee and the rest of the north and the east could collapse like a pack of cards.

How far is this conciliatory talk to go on while the country is virtually being held at pistol point by the Tigers? It is time the government stood up to the Tigers. It must have the courage to tell the Tigers to stop making impossible demands and work towards a negotiated settlement. Both groups should adopt a spirit of give and take to solve the problem.

The Tigers must not only hold back unreasonable demands but also end their violence.It must be borne in mind by both the government and the Tigers that peace with honour will be the only lasting peace.

Foreign governments, particularly the Americans, should caution the Tigers against going back to violence. This is also the time for other foreign representatives to be cautious of providing support to the Tigers. This is the only measure that will hold the advancing Tigers.

Maurice Lord
Colombo 13

The need for better qualified politicians
The UNP has called for nominations from those who wish to contest the 2003/04 Provincial Council elections. The candidates who sent nominations prior to independence in 1948, were well educated. Many were professionals. A majority of them used their own wealth to uplift the masses and assist the economic development of the country. They were honest freedom fighters who sacrificed everything. Some even served prison sentences under the colonial masters.

However, in the past five decades our country has had to face several problems, perhaps due to the wrong type of candidates being elected to Provincial, Municipal and Urban Councils and Pradeshiya Sabhas and even Parliament. They promote their kith and kin for jobs and appoint unsuitable persons as Justices of the Peace. Some of these politicians do not have basic qualifications, only money and weapons.
What the people want today is peace and stability in the country. To achieve this, political parties should select suitable candidates to represent the masses with at least the following qualifications:

  • The minimum educational qualifications should be G.C.E. Advanced Level.
  • A good knowledge of Sinhala, Tamil and English.
  • A character certificate from the temple, church, kovil or mosque on the suitability of the candidate to hold high office.
  • Declaration of assets and liabilities of the candidate.

F.A. Rodrigo

Examining one's own bias
My attention has been drawn to a comment made by All Ceylon Women's Buddhist Congress Secretary Indrani Devendra on a column of mine 'When are conversions improper' ('Focus on Rights', The Sunday Times, September 14), on the basis that it has been clouded by personal religious beliefs.

I can only express my bewilderment as to how Ms. Devendra (a lady who is happily, entirely unknown to me), could profess to be aware of my personal religious beliefs? Ms. Devendra would perhaps be the first to acknowledge her mistake if she was, in fact privy to my beliefs, which are deeply anti-thetical to all coercive forms of established religion. Her comment, therefore, is as ridiculous as it is misinformed.

While thanking Ms. Devendra for her comment at the outset that many of my earlier columns have been reasonable and objective, I would beg to differ from her conclusion that this instance is a departure from the same. As a practising lawyer and legal analyst, I examined the recent determination of the Supreme Court with regard to religious conversion (SC Determination No 19/2003, SCM 25.07.2003) from the basic standpoint that unethical and forcible conversions should be condemned in the strongest possible terms while, however, critically examining the applicable constitutional framework.

In that sense, Ms. Devendra manifestly contradicts herself when she remarks at one point that I have passed strictures on the Supreme Court judgment but states later that I have “shrewdly fought shy of doing this” and instead concentrated my ire on the plaintiffs. I must state that I have done neither but instead attempted to put the issue in its proper perspective, particularly in the context of rising religious tensions. Those who prefer to think otherwise need to examine their own bias.

Ms. Devendra also needs to be educated regarding Lord Atkin's famous warning that "in the democratic constitutional order, justice is not a cloistered virtue. On the contrary, she must be allowed to suffer the scrutiny and respectful, even though outspoken comments of ordinary men". (per Lord Atkin in Ambard v. Attorney-General for Trinidad and Tobago [1961] AC 322)

Kishali Pinto-Jayawardena

A bouquet for ‘MediScene’
It gave me great pleasure to read 'MediScene' in the The Sunday Times. I am sure that many will be healed just by reading the important articles it contains.
I do hope that this magazine will continue to be published. I am sure many readers will benefit. Keep up the good work.

M.I. Samarakone
Colombo 7

Congestion on 161
Sri Lanka Telecom advertises that the first 200 units will be free with effect from September 1, 2003. What additional benefits do subscribers derive from the monthly rental? Could the SLT say whether the service of Directory Inquiries is covered by this rental?

SLT offers discounted rates after 6 p.m. On September 5, I dialled 161 several times between 6.30 p.m. and 7.30 p.m. The answer I got was "Calls cannot be connected due to congestion".Can 161 be so busy in the evening? What a farce?

Kumar Jayawardene

Local spice names in English
I wish to place on record a few comments on the Sinhala publication, 'Spices - its history' authored by Ayurvedic Dr. M.A. Jagath Waidyathilleke.

This book has been registered as a 'school book' by the Ministry of Education. It highlights the medicinal benefits of various herbal spices such as mustard, ginger, curry leaf, coriander, pepper, tamarind, Bombay onions, garlic and various other items.

While congratulating the author, I request him and all concerned to get this book published in English, so that expatriates visiting Sri Lanka will be able to gain some knowledge on herbal spices available here.

Sarath Hewagama
Colombo 5

Z-score hindrance
The Advanced Level results are out. Some students will be able to enter campus on their results. However, the Z-Score ssytem is posing a major hindrance to bright students. The authorities should seriously look into this matter.

H. Vidanagama

Your columnist sees only one view thru’ the glasshouse
Thalif Deen, The Sunday Times correspondent in the United Nations, writes a weekly column called 'Inside the glasshouse'. I suppose the term 'glasshouse' refers to the United Nations.

Now, if he is reporting about the business of that august body, why does he report only on things pertaining to the Muslim world? Surely, there are many more important topics on political, economic, social, environmental and human rights issues being discussed, debated and decided upon in that world body.

Is he so blinkered that he sees and hears only things that interest the Muslims? We buy The Sunday Times to read fair and critical reporting, not one-sided reports. In most of his reports he seems to enjoy US bashing. That seems to be his only interest in remaining in the UN.

In his latest despatch he uses terms such as "bogged down", "crawls back" (suppose he implies that the US is going back to the UN on hands and knees. He must be peeping through the glasshouse to see these things!) "six bloodied months", "disastrous aftermath", "humiliating experience", "a coalition of willing terrorists" (these could be phrases picked up from Al-Qaeda propaganda machinery), "the multinational peace-keeping force will also go the way of the US-British Coalition" (words of a prophet on the side of international terrorism!) with glee.

Now, is this the only topic worth reporting? Like Bush, he seems to think that the only worthwhile thing the UN can do is to represent one's own view of the world. Isn't this the same thing that Osama bin Laden also expects the UN to do? So, Thalif seems to be on the same wavelength as Bush and Osama!

K. de Silva

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