Plus - Letters to the Editor

Trilingual anthem won’t work

Reader Mr. Kurunduhewa’s proposal of a trilingual national anthem (Sunday Times, February 6) is praiseworthy. He believes this would erase ill feelings over the banning of the Tamil version. However, a trilingual national anthem is found nowhere in the world. I hope he will not cross swords with me if I point out problems in adopting a trilingual national anthem.

The National Anthem is sung on ceremonial occasions. It is daily sung in schools and government offices. Not many may be aware that it is sung in Montessori Schools daily, even though the toddlers do not understand its significance.

The children of labourers, factory workers, masons, carpenters and estate employees will find it difficult to learn all three languages because their parents are not English educated. The rural school teachers too cannot teach them.

Children of the affluent class can pick up the new version easily. Their parents are well versed in English educated and they attend high-class schools in Colombo and the provincial towns. While a superior class of school children will be able to sing the anthem in three languages, the children of the poor parents in the remote, under-developed areas will be left out.

This would affect their self-respect. The Tamils are our brothers of the same soil, with equal rights and privileges. They too are patriotic inhabitants of our motherland. What harm will it cause if they sang the Anthem in their mother tongue?

Dr. D. Malwatte Mohotti, Bandaragama

Tread the illuminating path

Meelad –un- Nabi (Holy prophet’s birthday) falls on February 16

Myriad meandering minds mirthfully muse making mischief, misdeeds
Eschew evils, egoism, esoteric eroticism, enmities,
Establish eternal Eeman (faith) endeavour eagerly
Lo literate lads and lasses loathe lust – lust lurks liberally
All avidly accomplished Amals (good deeds) Almighty Allah accepts
Don’t deprive downtrodden destitutes dole (sadaqah)
Urge universal untiring utterance (Zikr)
Negates nihilistic nincompoops’ nefarious nauightiness
Ninety nine noble names (Asmaul Husna). Nabi’s (Holy Prophet Muhammad O.W.P.B) norms nurtures nature’s needs
Abound above all Allah’s adorable attributes (Sifats)
Believers beware boastful bragging beguiles brilliant minds
Instead inculcate implicit Ikhlas (sincerity of purpose) Ikram (duty to fellow beings) it is indeed in individuals immensely illuminating

Dr. M.I.M. Zaheer

Indian fishermen out of depth and out of law

I compliment the Sunday Times for highlighting the danger of conceding poaching rights to Indian fishermen and watering down the 1974 Indo- Sri Lanka Agreement signed by Prime Minister Sirimavo Bandaranaike. It has to be mentioned that the Agreement of 1974 was a foreign policy triumph of immense significance.

Fishermen in the north east of the country: Restore their fishing rights

The current rulers and their foreign policy establishment should do nothing to undermine the 1974 Indo-SL Agreement. If they succumb to Indian pressure and grant "poaching rights" to Indian fishermen that would not only be a violation of the sovereign rights of the country but a betrayal of the people.

We must first tell the current crop of Indian officials who are "arm twisting" the GOSL, that historically Kachchativu belonged to Sri Lanka and not to India. It is on that irrefutable fact that Indira Gandhi agreed to sign the Agreement.

Therefore it was not a gift from Indira to Sirimavo in that sense. But we must acknowledge the astute handling of the issue by a team of competent Foreign Ministry officers ably led by Prime Minister Bandaranaike. The current agitation by the Karunanidhi-led cabal in Tamil Nadu is all about local politics.

The danger in this well orchestrated periodic agitation which always reaches a high pitch closer to Tamil Nadu elections is the hidden role played by the South Block in Delhi. Those who handle the India brief in the Sri Lanka government both in Colombo and in Delhi have no clue about the long term goals pursued by the Indian establishment on Sri Lanka. Otherwise we would have never got this infamous "October 2008 Agreement on fishery".

The 1974 Maritime Boundary Agreement (MBA) between Sri Lanka and India settled for ever the boundary issue of the waters separating the two countries. There should be no attempt by the GOSL to undermine the MBA and allow Indian fishermen poaching rights. The so-called " October 2008 Agreement" cannot and must not be the basis to unravel the MBA.

That Agreement as pointed out by the Sunday Times appears to be deeply flawed from a legal perspective and for the first time in the history, acknowleges the presence of "Bonafide Fishermen crossing the IMBL". It is unimaginable as to how the Sri Lankan officials failed to see through the Indian master plan. Neither the Indian fishermen nor the Sri Lankan fishermen have a legal right to cross the maritime boundary into the other's waters.

Therefore each and every Indian fisherman out of the one thousand and more that cross into Sri Lankan waters to catch fish is violating Sri Lankan territorial limits. As the Indian fishermen are on a deliberate and pre-meditated mission to fish in Sri Lankan waters, which is an illegal act by the laws of Sri Lanka , they cannot by any stretch of imagination be called by this honorable terminology ‘bona fide fishermen crossing the IMBL"!

Sri Lanka fishermen who lost fishing rights for three decades in the Eastern and Northern waters because of the war, watched in disbelief how the "bonafide Indian fishermen" came a few metres off the Mannar coast and caught fish. It was a cruel fate that befell our fishermen. While our own security prevented them from going to sea, we allowed one thousand and more "bonafide Indian fishermen" to fish in the same waters of ours.

The priority and the prime responsibility of the government should be to restore the fishing rights of the Sri Lankan fishermen and prevent poachers from exploiting our fishery resources. Giving into the theatrics of the Tamil Nadu politicians under an 'over-estimated' notion of maintaining good relations with India and granting poaching rights to Tamil Nadu fishermen is a crime. India should realise that forcing GOSL to undermine the 1974 MBA is not sustainable. It is a violation of Sri Lanka's sovereignty.

No Indian leader who is interested in having good relations with Sri Lanka should force the Sri Lanka President on this issue. Sri Lanka should NOT accept directly or indirectly that the Indian fishermen have a right to fish in Sri Lankan waters.

N.R.Alfred Appuhamy, Negombo

Courts martial in Sri Lanka: Do they erode the status of the Judicial Courts and the judiciary?

Discussing courts and courts martial in a Sunday newspaper, an academic from the Law Faculty of the Colombo University, implied that a similar system existed in Britain. He may have been referring to the position pre- 2006.

The Armed Forces Act of 2006 unified the separate acts relating to the three armed forces. It set out a common set of offences to be tried by court martial and a common code of procedure for all three services. It also created a permanent court martial and brought the court martial into the judicial structure of the State. This permanent court is a constituent part of the judiciary of England, and is presided over by a Judge Advocate who is a judge of the Crown Courts.

The Judge Advocate General is appointed by the Queen and is a law officer of the Crown. This differs from the position in Sri Lanka. In Sri Lanka, a court martial under the Army Act, is set up to try persons of a particular class – those subject to military law – who commit offences, military or civil, specified therein. It is a tribunal which may be appointed by the President or an Army officer who are not members of the judiciary.

If however a court martial is the equivalent of the other courts in the judicial system, then, the principle of the separation of powers arises. The President – the Executive - is empowered to appoint a court martial, whilst judges of the other courts are appointed by the Judicial Services Commission.

In this regard the Criminal Law (Special Provisions} Act No.1 of 1962, empowered the Minister of Justice to nominate the judges to conduct the Trial at Bar – The Queen v Liyanage & Others. It was held that this was an interference by the executive in the powers of the judiciary – NLR 313 Vol 64. The act was consequently amended by the Criminal Law Act No.31 of 1962, enabling the Chief Justice to appoint the judges.

If the appointment of a court by a Cabinet Minister of the government is deemed to be unconstitutional, then, is a court appointed by the Executive President, and treated as the equal of a court in the judicial system, a violation of the principle of the separation of powers?

Further, as a court martial may be convened by an Army officer who is neither a member of the Executive or the Judiciary, is this an erosion of the status of the Judicial Courts and the judiciary? Perhaps some constitutional lawyer could offer some clarification.

A.J.B.Anghie, Via e mail

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