Strangling the working class and the economy Sadly no one has realised that by cutting the artery of Colombo, our commercial hub, we are effectively strangling the middle and working classes, whilst crippling the economy, putting off tourists and investors. This began in May 2014 when the previous regime made the Galle Road our main [...]

The Sunday Times Sri Lanka

Letters to the Editor


Strangling the working class and the economy
Sadly no one has realised that by cutting the artery of Colombo, our commercial hub, we are effectively strangling the middle and working classes, whilst crippling the economy, putting off tourists and investors. This began in May 2014 when the previous regime made the Galle Road our main artery, smaller. Who does that to the oldest, then broadest, and trunk road of the capital?

The Galle Road then six lanes – the artery of our commercial hub,was made four lanes by increasing parking space and pavements. The pavements, parking and centre are now bigger than the road itself! Who does that to the country’s main network feeder? Not only that, most of all the main roads in Colombo were reduced in size while reserved parking was increased. As a result at any given time on any road there is traffic in Colombo.

Parking is an essential for the small businesses along the Galle Road, but in any major city parking is demarcated by lines so one can park a vehicle in off peak times and traffic flows smoothly in peak.Till May 2014 it took approximately 15 minutes to go from Dehiwala to Bambalapitiya, and about 15 from there to Colombo 2. Unbelievable? True and sadly no one remembers. It takes more than an hour now.

On a Saturday you could breeze in to Colombo and out of Colombo in 20 minutes. Again it takes at least an hour now.Grand long-term plans are good. But we are killing the country’s present backbone whilst strangling the economy and putting off investors, tourists etc.

Ask any of the above how stressful it is to spend hours stuck in traffic jams travelling short distances (approx. 7 miles – 15 km from Dehiwala to Fort) and how negatively it affects output whilst shortening one’s life!

All it would take would be replacing the parking/buttresses or protrusions, with lines, so one could park in off peak times( 9.30am to 1pm & 2.30-4.30pm?) whilst traffic could flow smoothly at peak. This is done in all major cities across the globe.

This would be welcome by even the small scale vendors as they too are affected in commuting by constant traffic snarls.
The general public goes about feeling negative about the present Government as one is always caught up in a traffic snarl any time of day.
Everyday our office commuters and school children –the greater part of Colombo’s 2 million population – take 100% longer than 2014 to travel. Both ways! What a colossal waste of man hours, of an aging population, not to mention the negative impact on productivity.

Ask any of these would-be investors as well as tourists what was most off-putting about investment or re-visiting the country – and with one voice they will say
traffic jams.’Ask the working classes the country’s backbone – the reply would be the same.
The present Government is doing its best sometimes with one hand tied to improve the country.

It has however been accepted that despite an increase in would-be investors coming to Sri Lanka, the rate of investment has dropped compared to previously.
But take the Colombo Bokundara Road, which is broader than the Galle Road, with parking lines. One can sail along this road like we used to do along the Galle Road. With the buttresses pavements were increased at places to accommodate five abreast. As no one walks five abreast (except some brigades), reclaiming the small buttresses for the road will not be an issue.

A frequent visitor remarked, ‘ It took me two hours along the Galle Road to go to Fort. I beg of you do something or I will not come back again’.
Apparently the plan to make the Galle Road smaller was drawn up 25 years ago but we had to comply because we were given foreign aid. Was it done to cripple us?

M. Rasquinho Martyn
Via email


Why not try the compost bins?
Recent news states that Minister Faizer Mustapha has asked people to sort out their garbage and unless they do that, it will not be collected. But what good will it do to sort out the garbage since the dumping ground is still a question mark.

Dear Minister, it would have been much more practical if only you could have informed the public to use the perishables to create compost. The rest can, of course, be recycled; the greatest portion of the garbage collected from homes is the perishables from the kitchen and the garden refuse.  This is considered to be black gold in some countries where they see and recognize a good thing, which is not the trait of Sri Lankans anyway.

Mr. Minister, to overcome the garbage disposal problem, all you have to do is to provide a compost bin to each household and ask them to dump the perishables into them. Is that a big deal? But then we Sri Lankans, never follow the obviously simple means , do we? The cost of the compost bins, which can be made from recycled plastic, will be only a fraction of their salary and the transport of tons and tons of garbage, which has no place to go.  On the other hand the compost is selling at Rs. 200 a bag of 10 kilos – either the householder can use it or can sell it.

This obviously is not a novel invention – it is a well known, well tried profitable way of disposing garbage by garden lovers. All it needs is a little dedication and education of the public.
Why not try this at least in one area, as a pilot project. I am sure you will be in for a huge surprise.

Dr. Mareena Thaha Reffai

Are these practices part of Buddhism?
On October 15, I read an article in the ‘Island’ by Dr. Upul Wijayawardhana on “Is rains retreat redundant?” that struck a chord in me. The essence of the article was that Dr.Wijayawardhana deplored the over-ritualisation of Theravada Buddhism in this country.

I do not claim to be either a Buddhist or a Christian, although my parents were devout Buddhists. For many years I have been an atheist but I have great respect for Buddhist philosophy. I think what is happening today to the Buddhist religion here is a great tragedy. Monks, supported by Sinhala political leaders (in their quest for votes), have exaggerated the importance of ritual. The propagation of the wonderful Dhamma has taken a back place to the observance of ritual. Politicians crave photo-opportunities showing them offering flowers at temples or tying ‘pirith nooles’. They engage in foolish, superstitious practices such as dashing coconuts to persuade deities to do something they desire.

These are harmless but foolish superstitious practices. But they do not stop at that. They go on to erect statues of the Buddha wherever they can find a vacant spot of land. This is an undesirable and dangerous practice because it can be provocative to other religions while doing Buddhism no tangible good. It smacks more of idolatry than Buddhism. I am certain that the Buddha would have disapproved of these activities. Unfortunately building Buddhist statues is one of the ‘Eight Great Merits – Ata Mahal Kusal’ that Buddhists are urged to pursue. As Dr.Wijayawardhana has cogently pointed out, all those merits recommended by priests are designed to benefit themselves. Much of what is happening today is part of this scam.

Genuine Buddhist scholars like Raja Kuruppu would be doing a great service to the cause of Buddhism if they were to decry superstitious activities that bring Theravada Buddhism into disrepute. What they should continuously urge is the pursuit of ‘mindfulness, kindness, compassion, truth and wisdom’ to quote Dr. Wijayawardhana. Among the most heinous of the crimes committed by ultra-nationalists are the continuous replacing of long-standing road-names of one or two syllables with Sinhala names of more than four syllables. The longer the name the more their hearts swell with pride. Those who initiate and implement these projects do not realize the cost of their activities in the form of new name-boards and stationery for the businesses that are located on those unfortunate roads. Road maps and tourist literature are rendered obsolete. Who has benefitted from these name changes? Has Sinhala culture been miraculously enhanced? The ultra-nationalists who have had their egos boosted by these activities are damaging their poor country that cannot afford these silly extravagances. It would be futile to expect our political leaders to do anything to curb these costly frivolities because it would not garner them votes – their main aim in life.

-Charitha P. de Silva
Via email

Mum’s the word
The issue of a dress code for parents visiting schools has created much hot air in the media and a recent comment made by a harassed parent over this issue, as to where were the Sigiriya damsels’ kids schooled, prompted me to put pen to paper as to how a particular school has tackled this problem.
In mid-2000, my son was admitted to ‘The School’ which boasts about its pedigree by referring to the glistening objects in the night sky.
At the ceremony held to welcome the Grade One students, the Principal delivered a lengthy speech in the vernacular and in the Queen’s Language ( needing improvement ) and at the end,he had a ‘special message’ in vernacular for the mothers of the new entrants. He ‘strongly advised’ them, to be mindful of what they wear when visiting the school. “….. Mothers should cover themselves properly so that their presence will not be sensitive to the others and also should not come in tight-fitting garments which will cut a lustful figure out of them…..”.
For the above purpose, he said, mothers need not have to buy very expensive clothes because there are moderately priced quality ladies’ garments aplenty in the market which covers the female body appropriately.
Then came the reason for decreeing his Verbal Dress Code.
Mothers should keep in mind that not only their tiny and innocent sons are studying in this school but there are enough and more young bucks in their late teens too coming here to study ( daha ate, daha navaye getavarana ambothigena ganna enava ! ) –thundered he. No parent of this school has challenged this circularless Verbal Dress Code up to now!
D. Samaranayake,

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