Misuse of public property for polls: Can we stop it? Often opposition parties accuse the ruling party or parties of misusing public property for election-related activities Article 28 (d) of our Constitution reads “It is the duty of every person in Sri Lanka to preserve and protect public property and combat misuse and waste of [...]


The Sundaytimes Sri Lanka



Misuse of public property for polls: Can we stop it?

Often opposition parties accuse the ruling party or parties of misusing public property for election-related activities

Article 28 (d) of our Constitution reads “It is the duty of every person in Sri Lanka to preserve and protect public property and combat misuse and waste of public property”. Though provided for in the Constitution, no one can discharge that national duty in a practical sense except exposing such misuse, perhaps at one’s own risk and that too with negative results. “Prevention”, therefore, “is better than cure.”

Our Constitution does not provide for a caretaker government after dissolution of Parliament. The Cabinet Ministers, Senior Ministers, Project Ministers, Deputy Ministers and Monitoring Members of Parliament, totaling presently around 110 will hold office till elections are held at a future date after dissolution of parliament. That results in candidates of the ruling parties exercising governmental powers at the elections — vehicles, official residences, state buildings, offices, state media and staff being used for election work. Such a situation does not subscribe to a free and fair election.

We continue to witness the misuse of public property for electioneering because we do not have an independent elections commission.

Upali S. Jayasekera


Salute Navy docs for their feat in diving medicine

I was greatly impressed when I read the article in the Sunday Times of February 22 under the headline, ‘Lanka as diving medicine hub’. The article is a contribution to the health and wellbeing of the nation’s divers, some of whom give scant regard to the essential measures that need to be adhered to.

The article focuses on the all-important subject of diving-related illnesses. By reading it one would be able to understand the warning symptoms and when to seek medical assistance. Ignorance may cause delay and aggravate the complaints. As highlighted by the Surgeon, Rear Admiral Lalith Ekanayake, the importance of diagnosis and skilled treatment cannot be emphasised too much.

The strides made in medical research and the medical knowledge of Dr. Ekanayake, the only consultant in South East Asia, show that the knowledge we possessed was insufficient. The article incorporates the latest information on new medical discoveries and developments made possible under the guidance of Dr. Ekanayake and by the cooperation of Surgeon Commodore Sajith Jayasinghe and Surgeon Lieutenant Attanayake at the Trincomalee Naval Hospital. The Surgeon Rear Admiral’s suggestion to set up a Recompression Chamber in Welisara Hospital to treat victims of diving illnesses will be of practical value.

I wish Dr. Ekanayake success in his efforts

T.N. Abdeen
(Retd. Comm)


Days of the hangman: Woolf’s horror at the gallows

This refers to Kumudini Hettiarachchi’s article headlined ‘Storming Bogambara’. Prior to the Superintendent of Prisons taking over the task of officiating at executions, it was left for the Government Agent or his Assistant to be present when a man was executed.

Leonard Woolf who was the Assistant Government Agent of Kandy from August 1907 to August 1908, in his autobiography ‘Growing’ gives his experience as the officiating officer. The book says: “In Kandy executions took place in the Bogambara Prison, in the early morning before breakfast. To be present at them was a horrible experience and the more I had to witness, the more horrible I found them.”

And then he describes the procedure of execution.

“I first went to the condemned man’s cell, read over to him the warrant of execution and asked him whether he had anything to say. After I read out the warrant, the condemned man was led out of the cell.The man was led up to the scaffold by the warders, his arms were pinioned and the hat drawn over his face. I had to stand immediately facing him on a kind of verandah where I could see the actual hanging. On the steps of the gallows the priest stood praying. In two out of the six or seven hangings which I had to certify something went wrong. In one case the man appeared not to die immediately; the body went on twitching violently and the executioner went and pulled on the legs”.

Woolf gives his reaction to what he had witnessed.

“I give these details because those who support capital punishment in the 20th century pretend that it is a necessary, humane, civilized form of punishment. As a form of punishment it is disgusting and as I saw it disgustingly inefficient. From the point of view of society and criminology in my opinion, it is completely useless…. All the evidence, in all countries and at all times, goes to show that capital punishment is not a deterrent.”

These words come from a colonial administrator who described himself as “never a lenient judge or magistrate.” In the early 20th century Woolf considered capital punishment out of step with the times. No wonder prison officials say that the branches of the bo tree spreading in the direction of the gallows wither and die as if in sorrow.

Fortunately latter day Government Agents like us were spared of going through this repulsive experience.

(For Woolf’s full description please read ‘Growing’ pages 166,-169)



A big thank you to four boys

As I was crossing the road a few days ago, I missed my step on one of those uneven surfaces along the Galle Road. I have already had a hip-replacement operation on my right side and I was lucky falling towards the left.

But more than all this, I write this to mark my gratitude to four young men or boys who were travelling in an auto rickshaw when this mishap happened. They stopped the vehicle at once, picked me up and wanted to make sure I was able to walk along by myself. My wife could do little to help and I am all too overwhelmed by such kindness.

These youngsters could even have been going to the Royal-Thomian match at that time of the day but they were able to spare the time for me as they could have been doing for anyone else I am sure. I wish to record my profound thanks and gratitude to these young men who are a fine example to those who are speeding along our roads or those going about their business with hardly a care for those who may need to be helped along the way.

A grateful citizen


Police action that calls for praise

The tragic killing of the Borella Police OIC Prasad Siriwardene overshadowed the brilliant Police action initiated by Sumith Edirisinghe, Deputy Inspector General of Police in the Hanwella area together with his Police team to stem the virtual collapse of the rule of law. Mr. Edirisinghe and his team acted wisely and methodically.

I was an independent observer of the incident since I live close to the Rubber Glove factory from where I was able to view the angry jostling protest march lined up in the vicinity.

DIG Sumith Edirisinghe faced the boisterous crowd head on and unarmed and politely explained to them why the Police had arrived on the scene-to save the lives of the public and assure them their rights could be granted through legal action. He later assembled them in a temple and explained to them how their grievances could be solved and since they realised the truth of what he said, they did not proceed with the intended actions. Unfortunately this melee caused the untimely death of the Borella Police OIC. While the DIG was tactfully trying to bring the situation under control, this tragedy had occurred.

The media and Opposition parties constantly criticise the Police for breakdowns in law and order but when their valour and bravery needs to be congratulated they are hardly ever applauded. This time it was definitely the efficient handling by the Police that prevented further major incidents and bloodshed in the Hanwella area.

Pro bono publico

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