Don’t malign the men who did much for the Sigiriya frescoes The July 12 Sunday Times article titled ‘Precious ladies have suffered from experts makeovers’ clearly places in the hands of the late Luciano Maranzi some responsibility for the damage said to have been suffered by the restored Sigiriya paintings. The Director of the Post-Graduate [...]

The Sunday Times Sri Lanka

Letters to the Editor


Don’t malign the men who did much for the Sigiriya frescoes
The July 12 Sunday Times article titled ‘Precious ladies have suffered from experts makeovers’ clearly places in the hands of the late Luciano Maranzi some responsibility for the damage said to have been suffered by the restored Sigiriya paintings. The Director of the Post-Graduate Institute of Archaeology is reported therein to have said:

1. “The Italian restorer L. Maranzi removed the green paint and retouched the frescoes with water colours in 1967 and 1968.”
2. “By 1972, however, the water colours had faded due to direct exposure to sunlight’.
3.“Right now what you see is the damage done by people who attempted to preserve the murals 30 years ago”.

Maranzi maligned
Luciano Maranzi, being no more, cannot answer these allegations against him. Your readers would likely believe that he was incompetent. I, having been associated with this expert in the restoration of the Sigiriya paintings, would like to refute these allegations. Firstly minimum restoration was undertaken, and this was largely in areas around the painted figures where the off-white overall background colour had been lost. And this “touching up” was done using not water colours but acrylic paints, which are mentioned in detail in reports of the work concerned (Raja de Silva – Administration Report of the Archaeological Commissioner for 1967 – 1968; and Raja de Silva – Sigiriya Paintngs, 2009). So, there is no question of water colours fading, as alleged in the article.

Secondly, there was no possibility of direct exposure of the paintings to sunlight for the reason that “an added protective measure introduced by me was to have movable khaki curtains along the top of the wire netting framework to protect the pockets from rain spray during the monsoons, and the direct play of the afternoon sunlight on the paintings” (Sigiriya Paintings, 18). Your readers, however, would tend to believe the unwarranted criticism that the Archaeological Department neglected the protection of the conserved paintings.

Archaeology DG criticised
Thirdly, readers may note that only trained and qualified conservators of the Archaeological Department were entrusted with the conservation of wall paintings 30 years ago, as the antiquities law provides for. Thus, this gratuitous denigration of the conservation done for three decades by the Archaeological Department at Sigiriya under the directions of former Directors General Roland Silva, Siran Deraniyagala, W.H. Wijepala, (and by Luciano Maranzi in association with the Department), as well as the present Director General of Archaeology, is as inexplicable as it is baseless; it brings no credit to the Post Graduate Institute of Archaeology, a public-funded body. The Director of this institute needs to study published official archaeological reports carefully, before pontificating (read: maligning experts) on matters outside his sphere of expertise, which all painters who have had exhibitions are aware of.

Finally, the open criticism of the Director General of Archaeology (DG/A) by the Director of the Post-Graduate Institute of Archaeology (D/PG IAR) for allegedly permitting the Sigiriya paintings to deteriorate is a matter that requires a response from the offended party. The implications of one aspect of the baseless criticisms reported in the article could have adverse repercussions beyond our shores. It is possible that the UNESCO would be informed of imminent danger to the safeguarding of an integral part of the World Heritage site of Sigiriya on account of alleged continuous neglect of duty by its custodian – the D/GA. It is advisable that the Prime Minister, who is also Minister of Cultural Affairs take disciplinary action against the D/PG IAR for making the public statements which are calculated to bring the DG/A into disrepute, and by extension the GOSL into disrepute regarding a World Heritage site. He should be asked to substantiate his allegations by producing the relevant documents and show cause as to why action should not be taken against him. It is not in the interests of Sri Lanka and the public service to let this matter ride.

Raja de Silva
Member, the Archaeological Advisory Committee

A speech worthy of a President
July 14 will be etched as a red letter day in the annals of the country’s political history. A humble President giving a ‘no holds barred’ speech put ‘little’ Sri Lanka firmly in the forefront of democratic nations!

Not only the right thinking Sri Lankans but the whole world will give President Maithripala Sirisena a standing ovation for his courage and forthrightness in calling a spade a spade and laying his cards on the table, so to speak!

During the days prior to this, all right thinking citizens of this country were in a complete spin wondering if President Sirisena had succumbed to the pressures exerted on him, either by the pro-Rajapaksa hangers-on or the UNP leadership which had dropped a bit of cow excreta in the milk of ‘good governance’ with the Bond Issue scandal. However, it is still not too late to for the UNP leadership to take some damage control measures by requesting the Central Bank Governor to step down for the sake of all good governance supporters.

With Tuesday’s speech, the President has allayed all the fears of those who had supported him at the Presidential elections. No doubt, there will be a lot of mudslinging at the President, but he has already proved that he possesses the intelligence and tenacity to withstand challenges. With this speech, he has obviously regained his support bank and the respect of the global intelligentsia, he so richly deserves.

The President has led from the front, taking a firm stand against corruption, violence, drug abuse and abuse of political power and now it’s up to all those right thinking politicians and voters to sink their differences and support him to the hilt by voting in a clean ‘unity’ government regardless of party differences, to ensure he gets a supportive Parliament so that he can set an example to the whole world on how to democratically rebuild a nation devastated by a ruthless regime.

Desmond Z. De Silva

Pensioners, revisions and allowances: Let there be fair play!
A wage earner faces a situation of wages chasing prices. Some are fortunate enough to receive wages with which they can overtake the escalating prices. Some are able to manage the situation as they get allowances commensurate with the change in prices. Some are virtually drowned. We the pensioners of the People’s Bank belong to the last category.

Our problems can be grouped under four categories:
a. There was no revision of pensions commensurate with the triennial revision of the salaries of the current public servants. The most senior pensioners must have been deprived of a minimum of eight salary revisions. These revisions have raised the salaries of our colleagues, who are junior to us.

Pension revisions are not an unknown phenomenon in our country. Central Bank pensioners enjoy it. So do the peoples’ representatives. In advanced countries, indexing of pensions is the accepted method to ensure that the pensioners receive a pension to meet the rising cost of living. It has been suggested that we should base the pension on the current salary of the parallel staff in service, and to replace the existing practice of basing it on the last drawn salary of the retiree. That would have eradicated many a problem and embarrassment.

b. The Variable Cost of Living Allowance, the cushion provided for meeting the escalating prices, has been frozen as at the retiring date for the retirees after June 1996. Those who retired before June 1996 continue to enjoy the VCOLA, but they were denied the 5 percent increase in the maximum pension entitlement of 90 percent of the last drawn gross salary and the concession of not being subjected to deduction of commuted pension.

Those who retired after June 1996 were given the 5 percent additive and non-recovery of the commuted pension but denied the VCOLA. The small increase and the non-deduction have been swept away by the denial of that allowance for the rapidly escalating cost of living, the very cushion devised and extended to all wage earners. This freezing robs the pension entitlement of a substantial amount now amounting to Rs. 26,000 a month.

c. Surviving spouses of public servants continue to receive the deceased spouses’ full pension. The Central Bank follows it with their best of both worlds’ policy, the ideal behind the corporate sector which stopped short of staff welfare in other corporate sectors. The Bank of Ceylon adopts the 50 per cent of the deceased spouses’ pension and we in the People’s Bank extend only a niggardly 20 per cent and on top of it the denial of the VCOLA is also superimposed. Thus we think that the surviving spouses are the worst hit.

d. The salary revision based on the collective agreement is the mutually agreed method that ensures industrial peace. This has not been extended to the retirees, for they apparently lack the device utilised by those in harness. They apparently have neither the muscle power nor the political backing of the parties they are affiliated to, nor are the members active or vibrant enough to make the case heard at the proper quarters. Pensioners a few years back were few and the survivors for long too were fewer. Now the number has swelled to more than 6,000 in the People’s Bank alone and there are active nonagenarians. The senior citizens in the country will be in the region of 50 percent of the population in two decades. It is high time this crucial number presented a unified voice preferably with the active support of the current junior colleagues in service, who are destined to be retirees and swell the numbers, sooner than later.

It is an issue that should have been on the top of the agenda of the trade unions affiliated to various political parties to ensure that the benefits of salary revision and other staff benefits are passed on to the pensioners as well simultaneously and preferably intact.

R. Suntharalingam
Via email


 Issue of passports: The delay is at our overseas missions

This refers to the letter by Mr. Nimal who had queried the delay in the issue of passports at Sri Lanka’s overseas missions (the Sunday Times of July 5).

If an applicant submits an application it should be sent in the weekly mail bag to the Department of Immigration. Within a week, the department issues the passport and sends it to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. If the Ministry sends it in the weekly mail bag, the applicant could receive the passport within five weeks.

The delay normally is at our overseas missions. This should be looked into by the Secretary to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Controller of Immigration and Emigration.

Sri Lankans living here upon paying Rs. 5,000 receive passports within 6-7 hours the same day. Sri Lankan paying US$ 170 (Rs. 23,000) should not be denied an efficient service.
N. Bambaravanage
(Former Controller of Immigration and Emigration)

For fleeced depositors, hope in JVP National List

I was happy to note that former Auditor General S. C. Mayadunne has been included in the National List of the JVP.
As a depositor of The Finance and Guarantee (Developers) Ltd., I have seen the good work he had done for the benefit of the depositors when he was the chairman of a trust which was formed following a Supreme Court ruling. The trust was to help the depositors of the two failed finance companies — The Finance & Guarantee (Developers) and the Finance & Guarantee (Real Estate) Companies. This trust had compiled, to a great extent, the assets and liabilities statements of these two companies in a bid to find ways and means of repaying the depositors, but it could not complete the work.

Now that he is coming forward to Parliament as a JVP National List candidate, we the depositors of the two failed finance companies can have some consolation that he will champion our cause.
W.K. Ruberu
Disgusted depositor

Re-introduction of the death penalty: The Buddhist perspective

Amid an alarming increase in premeditated killings, rape of women and sexual abuse, calls are being made even from the highest levels of the government for the reintroduction of the death penalty.

Sri Lanka is primarily a Buddhist country where other leading religions such as Christianity, Hinduism and Islam enjoy the freedom to practise their faith without any hindrance.

A key feature in Buddhism is the observance of the five precepts — refraining from killing, stealing, sexual misconduct, falsehood and intoxicants. The first precept is to refrain from killing not only humans but all living beings. However, human life is precious because they have the mental capacity to develop and purify their minds and realise the Buddhist goal of Nibbana to escape from samsara, the cycle of births and deaths.

The re-introduction of the death penalty is advocated on two grounds. The offenders will not be able to repeat their dastardly action and it could act as a deterrent. The first could be overcome by ensuring that the life sentence imposed on such offenders is not relaxed under any circumstances. Regarding the second factor, influential people and even their children tend to believe that they could get away from such crimes because of their power or the parents’ powers. This aspect could continue even after the introduction of the death penalty. Action could be retarded at the level of police investigations, formulation of prosecution charges at the Attorney-General’s Department and even at the judicial level.

The more challenging and humanitarian task is not the easy way of putting an end to the life of an offender but the great and noble effort to reform him or her. We learn in Buddhism that Buddha, on several occasions, had turned serious criminals into good people who subsequently lived the religious life and sometimes even realised Nibbana.

If this is not considered feasible today because of changed circumstances, we have an example from Southern India where notorious criminals are reformed through the Buddhist practice of cleansing the mind by encouraging them to take to meditation or Bhavana. Kiran Bedi, the lady head of a prison in South India, took the initiative to conduct Bhavana sessions in her prison for those inclined to engage in this practice. Gradually the programme gathered momentum and many seasoned criminals reviewing the unwholesome lives they had led recoiled at their past behaviour and some have even wept. Consequently they have taken to religious life engaging in Bhavana on a regular basis. Some after long years of imprisonment received remission of sentence on account of good behaviour and became good citizens engaging in occupations of wholesome nature.

There is another aspect with regard to the death penalty. A person executed for an offence could later be found to be innocent with lieu concessions and evidence. If a life sentence has been imposed it would be possible to release the person immediately and pay compensation for the period served in prison. However, if the person had been executed no remedial action is possible.
There is also the possibility that in rare circumstances an innocent person could be proved guilty of an offence punishable with execution. Such a miscarriage of justice would really be a serious crime where the punishment is execution.

It should also be noted that the European Union (EU), comprising mostly Christian nations, has urged our Government on more than one occasion to refrain from the re-introduction of the death penalty.

May saner and wiser counsel prevail and the re-introduction of the death penalty be abandoned in favour of the daunting task of reformation of criminals.

May all beings be well and happy!
Rajah Kuruppu
Colombo 6

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