The Sundaytimes Sri Lanka

Letters to the Editor


Wake up! Our children are being raped

The recent weeks have seen a litany of horror unfold itself in the unending spate of cases of child abuse and rape from all parts of the country. As a parent and a citizen of Sri Lanka, I have both helplessly and frustratedly followed the media coverage in this regard.
I place on record my grateful thanks to every media organization in this country for having brought this issue out in to the open. Yes, it is their civic duty to do so. And if they had not done so and will not continue to do so, we the public will never know.
Raping a child literally amounts to murder. He/she lives scarred for life, and the rapist (if unlucky) spends a few years in jail and is out again. We have read of how father and son have both raped the same teen-aged girl, of how a 16-year-old uncle raped his six-year-old niece, of how a policeman raped an already raped girl etc.

These are the very few cases that have come to light. I presume double treble quadruple that number has gone unreported and un-apprehended.
The rot is far too widespread and far too rampant to even contemplate plain imprisonment at this stage. The answer to this is nothing but the speedy imposition and effective implementation of the death penalty.

This is the only effective deterrent at this late stage.There will no doubt be a lot of argument against the death penalty but then how many more innocent little children are we going to sacrifice to the rapists until society decides to reform itself and become righteous ? Pure wishful thinking … alas. Let’s reverse the order and bring about the same desired change.

First the death penalty and then we address the other ancillary issues. Awareness should be consciously driven in at every possible level. It should start with parents who need to be vigilant about their children at all times – how they get about, whom they associate with etc.
We need parents / teachers to talk to their children and make them aware of being careful.
This of course depends on the age of the child and how they can be ‘educated’. We need civil society to be less apathetic and contribute to greater awareness.

We need our religious leaders to be less reclusive (yes please) and speak out. We need guest/rest house keepers to report incidents where adults bring under-aged guests. We need ‘van uncles’ to know that they are being watched. We need the police to get more and more actively involved in apprehending the culprits. We need laws to be relentless and far more stringent.
In short we need every possible level of society, from the home unit right up to the government to get actively involved against child abuse and rape. Minister of Child Development and Women’s Affairs Tissa Karaliyedde will no doubt have never-ending brickbats hurled at him from some quarters for moving for the death penalty. That is to be expected. He will also have thousand fold that number of bouquets for what he will be doing to save the innocent children of Paradise Isle.

Keep going at it Mr. Minister, please keep going.

Kumar de Silva, Nugegoda

Skin colour discrimination as bad as caste and class discrimination

This refers to Sudha G. Tilak’s article (from Al Jazeera) appearing in the Sunday Times of last week.
This notion of white skin being superior threatens to heighten a natural anxiety in women and men and their critical ability to remain comfortable in their own skin. The bizarre reality being developed, is that the best way to market a product is to feed on misplaced cultural views fuelled by human insecurities.

The ridiculous proposition that the colour of women’s intimate areas (not just their cleanliness, it would seem) is marketed as another “opportunity” to make themselves more attractive to the opposite sex. Probably as dubious as its predecessor meant for the face, marketers argue that, like lipstick, no harm comes from marketing fairness for the nether areas.
From advertisements for marriage proposals where fairness is a virtue, to Bollywood movies where the heroine is pale and has light hair while only extras have dark skin or hair, the commercialists seem to be the only winners.
White skin is now recognised as a social marker for high class. They will develop an inferiority complex which will affect the vast majority of the population, and contribute to further degeneration of society.

Skin colour discrimination in Sri Lanka must be as socially unacceptable as discrimination on caste, class and disability difference bases. Otherwise, young people will, in desperation run into the waiting hands of the predatory monster that is the marketing industry, which will gladly embrace them with open arms and slowly leach them dry.

Dr. Lasantha Pethiyagoda, Melbourne

Misfits among our public servants

As someone with more than 60 years’ experience teaching medical students – both undergraduates and postgraduate students, I feel compelled to respond to Ashwini Surage’s shocking and mortifying letter, “Is this what the Hippocratic oath is all about?” (Sunday Times, June 24).
Sri Lankans have inflicted upon themselves inefficient, uncivilised administrators and public servants at every level – from politicians to hospital staff. There is no procedure for selecting undergraduates to tertiary institutions on the basis of aptitude, medical faculties included (a chit from a politician would do for the public service).

As a result, we have a few psychopaths masquerading as senior students who inflict barbaric, sometimes crippling or lethal, ragging on newcomers, and people like the Nuwara Eliya Hospital “official” referred to in Ashwini Surage’s letter. They have been educated beyond their intelligence (if they had any), or perhaps they have taken their cue from certain politicians.

To be sure, there are solid, conscientious and decent hospital staff. The misfits are perhaps a minority, but just one misfit can tarnish the public image of the medical community, just as one sneeze can trigger an influenza epidemic.

That our society is degenerating is something Ashwini Surage and other innocents will have to get accustomed to, if they are to even visit this country, let alone live in it, as we have, hoping our bodies and souls will remain intact.

S. N. Arseculeratne, Professor Emeritus, Peradeniya

Low-flying  helicopters disturbing our peace

Residents living around Pitawella Road, Boralesgamuwa, north of Ratmalana Airport are facing a grave problem of noise due to helicopters frequently flying very low. This was seldom experienced even during the war against the LTTE, but since the purchase of additional helicopters after the war was over, it appears these new helicopters are used indiscriminately.

It has become difficult for students to study and also listen to news programmes over the TV, not to speak of enjoying a movie. The elders who take an evening nap too are disturbed. This goes on even at nights. It is expected this noise disturbance will increase when the elections near as government members will use these helicopters to visit Sabaragamuwa, North Central and Eastern Districts for their campaign.

The Commissioner of Elections should take note as to whether this is an election contravention– usage of government property for election campaigns. It may also be of interest to the Committee on Public Accounts, of which Senior Minister Dew Gunasekera is the Chairman to investigate whether it does not amount to unnecessary or illegal expenditure to move politicians from Colombo to places where election campaigns will be heldWhatever it be, could authorities reduce this noise pollution and allow us to live in peace, in this area that’s a bird sanctuary?

Elder Citizen, Boralesgamuwa

How long are we going to brand  national identity after leadership?

During a recent visit to India, I attended a play at the National Centre for Performing Arts in Bombay. The atmosphere was culturally charged, the people arriving, delighted and happy, looking forward to the evening. As I walked in with my friend, the excitement was infectious. My mind went back to my own country where the excitement experienced at such evenings has been equally great however, I felt there was something seriously lacking.

As we stood in the foyer till the doors opened, my mind wandered to search for that missing link. Here were Indians just like us Sri Lankans coming to see a play. Why, I asked was their identity one of such great pride. Wearing a traditional saree was not the reason. Then what was it? My eyes wandered to the board above which read, “National Centre for the Performing Arts”. Ah I said to myself. “National!” this was the word perhaps which made them feel one with the Nation. It was no ordinary venue – it was the National Centre, a beautiful building in a beautiful surrounding.

What did we have in Colombo to compare? The building which was to be our National Centre for the Performing Arts was named after a person – the President. This made that difference I felt! With each new building constructed, with each new road completed, with each new stadium, port or playground built, it is the name of a living human being that marks it, and now more so the name of the first family. How, I asked can this create any pride in any Sri Lankan? What is nation building but the creation of a national pride on things Sri Lankan? This is totally absent in our country today.

How long are we going to brand national identity after leadership? Identity of a country depends on the cultural and historical characteristics of the land while cultural identity of a person is related to his or her cultural feelings – be in language, art and music, dance or ethnicity. Cultural identity cannot link an individual’s cultural thinking to a name of a politician.

Sometime back, I remember viewing a documentary on the opening of a tank by the late Prime Minister, D.S. Senanayake. In his opening speech, he said, “This is now yours. You the people are the owners of this tank. It is up to you to look after the waters in it.” There was no board to say the Prime Minister had declared it open neither was there a name of any politician to say ‘he or she’ had gifted it to the people. Prime Minister Senanayake had by his words, bestowed the ownership of the tank to the people of the land. National pride was created by granting ownership of the country’s assets to its people.

If we are to encourage patriotism and nationhood, we need to change direction drastically. It is only when we have achieved this that Sri Lankans will feel Sri Lankan.


The bad side of claiming to be the best

We have seen several full page advertisements in national news papers by a few banks claiming that they are the best bank in Sri Lanka.
There cannot be several best banks in Sri Lanka. These adverts are obviously to lure customers. In the same way very high deposit rates offered by collapsed finance companies attracted customers, these advertisements will attract customers. Therefore it is necessary for the public to know the credentials of the institutions making these awards.

We know that there are mushroom organisations offering various awards for a fee like the Doctorates offered to questionable individuals.
We presume that the Central Bank is monitoring these claims and checking the credentials of the institutions making these awards without waiting to close the stables after the horses have bolted as done in the past.

A. G. Weerasinghe, Gangodawila

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