Declaration of assets is fine, but what’s important is what happens next It was heartening indeed to read in the newspapers recently that the Elections Commissioner was insisting on the declaration of assets by candidates at the forthcoming elections. Although this is a requirement that every prospective candidate should have been aware of, only about 60% [...]

The Sunday Times Sri Lanka

Letters to the Editor


Declaration of assets is fine, but what’s important is what happens next
It was heartening indeed to read in the newspapers recently that the Elections Commissioner was insisting on the declaration of assets by candidates at the forthcoming elections. Although this is a requirement that every prospective candidate should have been aware of, only about 60% had declared their assets before the deadline. Obviously some are struggling to make this declaration legitimizing ill-gotten wealth. Or could it be that they are seeking a little respite to transfer some of their assets to proxies?

Assuming that all candidates faithfully declare their assets honouring the deadline, the question that every prudent citizen is asking is whether these declarations are verified and what follows if found to be false ?

Depriving candidature for the elections or the mandatory loss of the seat if he or she wins are what the people expect. Furthermore these will be deterrents to making untruthful and inaccurate declarations. It is also worth considering whether the possession of clean material wealth alone can make a good parliamentarian. Why should not an Elections Commission, at least in the future call for such declarations regarding academic and professional qualifications and non-involvement in any criminal activities?

To insist on conviction for disqualification in a country where the conviction rate for criminal offences is only a meagre 4% is indeed ridiculous. Needless to emphasise criminals who can afford to bribe, influence or retain eminent counsel seldom get convicted.

The country expects legislators to be above suspicion. Even an applicant for the post of Police Constable has to make a faithful declaration covering even close relatives who have come to the adverse notice of the police. About 50 years ago, I remember having dismissed a probationary Sub-Inspector of Police for failure to declare that an uncle of his had been arrested and warned by Police for being a customer of an illicit liquor seller!

In the seventies, after completing my Masters Degree in Criminal Justice when I applied for a UN Fellowship on Law Enforcement, a question I had to answer in the application form read as follows: “Have you ever been arrested, indicted, or summoned into court as a defendant in a criminal proceeding or convicted, fined or imprisoned for the violation of any law (excluding minor traffic violations?)

If ‘Yes” give full particulars of each case in an attached statement”. Conviction was certainly not the sole criterion. Unless rigorous standards of entry are enforced for those seeking positions not only in the legislature but also in the State Services particularly in the administration of criminal justice, the present state of affairs with crooks, sycophants and rogues in position of power and influence is likely to prevail in the future too.
Edward Gunawardena
Via e mail

Success story of expressways and the role played by different political parties
The parliamentary general elections of August 17 has provided the opportunity for some candidates in political parties to repeat the distorted history of planning and construction of three expressways and costs of road construction. During the last presidential election some described these three expressways and also planned highways as robberies that required good planning to reduce costs without corruption. In media debates and radio discussions some categorically stated that one political party and its president planned and constructed three expressways. The following information shows the project history of three expressways and which political parties contributed for the successful planning and road construction.

During 1989-1994 under the UNP government the Road Development Authority (RDA) conducted pre- feasibility studies (1991-1993) for the Kottawa to Matara and Katunayake expressway. The preliminary land surveys and designs were completed and the road trace was established. The initial land surveys and identification of road traces for the Outer Circular and Katunayake expressway were completed.

From 1995 to 2001, during SLFP rule, most of the activities were expedited in project planning and engineering designs for the construction of the Kottawa-Matara expressway including the development of a National Involuntary Resettlement Policy (NIRP) in May 2001, approval of three memoranda by the Cabinet Ministers from April to September 2001 introducing a special compensation packages for all categories of affected persons and free house plots for encroachers in resettlement sites. The establishment of land acquisition and resettlement committees (LARCs) was a great achievement to pay market values and replacement cost for the houses and other structures. This facilitated the expedited process of land acquisition of about 1,100 ha. land and compensation payments for about 5800 households (about 12,000 lots) in the project affected area of Kottawa-Matara expressway (for details read the Parliamentary Debates, Hansard, 22 January 2001).

The planning activities of the expressways from Kadawatha to Kandy started in 2001 with the preparation of an environmental impact assessment report but there were strong objections for land acquisition in Gampaha District. The planning activities got significantly delayed in the Outer Circular and Katunayake expressway.

During 2002 to 2004 with the President from the SLFP and the Prime Minister from the UNP, the first contract for road construction was awarded to Kumagai Gumi Company in December 2002 for a road section of about 60 Km from Kurundugahahatakma to Matara after land acquisition of about 50% of the road section funded by the Asian Development Bank. Also, nearly 80% of land acquisition, compensation payments and resettlement of displaced families were completed during this period after Supreme Court judgment in January 2004. There were strong objections for land acquisition for other expressways (Colombo-Kandy, Katunayake and Outer Circular) and Road Development Authority almost reached a stalemate over the issues of objections for land acquisition and funding sources.

Between 2005 and 2010 there was a progress of land acquisition from Kottawa to Kaduwela in Outer Circular expressway and in the road section of Katunayake expressway. Two contracts were awarded in the road section funded by Japan Bank for International Cooperation (JBIC) in August 2005 and March 2006 for the road section from Kottawa to Kurundugahahatakma. The expressway was first opened from Kottawa to Pinnaduwa on November 26, 2011 and from Pinnaduwa to Godagama was opened on March 15, 2014. The Katunayake expressway and a road section of Outer Circular Expressway were also completed and opened for road transport. It took nearly 13 years to complete the planning and construction of three expressways. What was noted during this period was the strong commitment of all political parties for the planning and construction of expressways and this was the key to success.

G. Amarasena

Real waste of rail metal waste
While travelling by train, especially along the main Colombo – KKS line, one can notice old railway compartments and goods wagons lying exposed to the elements, rusting away.
Between Colombo Fort and Dematagoda we spot the good old steam engines along with the rolling stocks dating back to the 1940s and 1950s era, covered with foliage going un-noticed like nobody’s children.
The story is the same along the railway tracks where the derailed goods wagons are seen lying wherever the accidents occurred. These have not been brought back to the railway ‘grave yard’. This is an eye sore and gives a bad impression not only of the Railway Department but the country in general, that train travel is not safe in Sri Lanka.
In this industrialized world where black metal plays an important part there are countries starving for iron to be recycled and used in various industries.
I remember there was an iron and steel melting plant in Enderamulla in the 1960s. I wonder what happened to this facility. Why can’t the Railway Department collect all the rusting iron and ship it to the closest country that needs this metal, which in turn could bring in foreign exchange and above all will help to keep the railways clean.
Kanagar Raveendiran
Colombo 6

The choon paan sound menace: Please give us some peace
We hear a cacophony of odd noises that are followed by the howling of dogs in the neighbourhood, daily in the early hours of dawn, emanating from the three wheelers popularly referred to as “Choon Paan”. These are parked on the wayside selling confectioneries, bread and snacks, in and around the city of Maharagama.

The worst affected by these deafening sounds are schoolchildren who are engrossed in their early morning studies. Others after a hard day’s work return to their homes expecting a good night’s sleep, but they too are rudely woken up early in the morn by the monotonous noise of this “Choon Paan” menace. The authorities concerned should consider the possibility of enforcing the Silence Zone rules to these areas in an effort to seek a reasonable solution to this problem.

Citizen Perera

I have not seen Buddhist monks voting

The country is on the eve of a crucial general election in which every vote counts. Except for a very few helpless invalids every other registered voter goes to his or her polling booth to cast their vote. But I am at a loss to understand whether some 30,000 members of the Buddhist clergy do go to vote.
I am saying so as I have neither seen them at any polling booth nor recall seeing them in any newspaper photograph or on television. Even as a public servant I have not seen them even when I was on election duty.
This reminds me also of the vast number of housemaids and other Lankans employed abroad. We cannot expect them to come to Sri Lanka solely to cast their vote. Those who are seeking to get a place in the legislature, need to ponder over these matters at least for the future.

V.K. Wijeratna

Remembering the deeds and words of Abdul Kalaam

Let me refer briefly to the irreparable intellectual void created by the demise of great Abdul Kalaam, the eleventh President of India. He had a distinguished scientific career in defence and space research and was responsible for India’s first satellite launch vehicle SLV-3. He had the unique honour of being the recipient of India’s prestigious civilian awards namely, Padma Bhushan (1981); Padma Vibhushan (1991); and Bharat Ratna (1997).

Of Nelson Mandela he said “The two lessons one can learn from him are indomitable spirit and virtue of forgiveness.” Abdul Kalaam had said something quite relevant to Sri Lanka today “The basis of all systems, social or political, rests upon goodness of men. No nation is great or good because parliament enacts this or that, but its men are great and good”. (Address to the Nation; 2006).

Justice Ranjit Dheeraratne

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