Train rides spoilt by unruly behaviour and lack of facilities Being a regular traveller by train from Colombo to Badulla I would like to address several disadvantages faced by tourists travelling by train. Firstly, getting train tickets especially on the AFC (Airconditioned First Class) carriage is almost impossible because although the bookings open a month [...]


Letters to the Editor


Train rides spoilt by unruly behaviour and lack of facilities

Being a regular traveller by train from Colombo to Badulla I would like to address several disadvantages faced by tourists travelling by train.

Firstly, getting train tickets especially on the AFC (Airconditioned First Class) carriage is almost impossible because although the bookings open a month ahead they are quickly snapped up by the families of railway employees travelling on warrants which are free for the employees. As there is only ONE AFC compartment the seats available for tourists are very limited. Many tour agents I have spoken to, have to bribe their way to access these limited tickets.

The locals travelling on warrants are loud, obstructing the aisle, with children standing on seats, running around, shouting and generally causing a lot of discomfort to other passengers.After eating from their rice packets they stash their  food wrappings on the floor and the air conditioned compartment stinks of curry. After eating with their fingers they hold the seats, doors with curry in their fingers and this is repulsive. There is no difference to facilities offered to 1st and 3rd class passengers.

The AFC toilet becomes a cess pool, additionally passengers from the 2nd and 3rd class compartments also use these toilets, and vacant seats in the AFC compartment are occupied by passengers from 2nd and 3rd class. There have been times when these youth have terrified female tourists with their familiarity. There is no presence of any railway law enforcement officers.

Every time I get into the AFC compartment at Fort there are two well built men who pretend to be dumb and forcefully engage in helping tourists by grabbing their bags and then produce a form of some sort and ask for money.  I once brought it to the notice of a railway police officer but he only looked on and didn’t do anything to ease the discomfort of the female tourists.

I do hope these setbacks to tourism development will be addressed with an additional compartment allotted for railway employees travelling on warrants and rail travel made more pleasant and easily accessible for tourists who are in awe of Sri Lanka’s spectacular scenery.

Penny Stork  Via email

Harassment by tuk tuk drivers; the ugly, unwelcoming side of Sri Lanka
As a tourist In Colombo and a previous resident, I am writing to express my dismay at the current behaviour of a huge percentage of tuk tuk drivers that roam the streets.

In the last few weeks I have been followed, harassed and had lewd offensive and suggestive comments made to me by numerous drivers.

As a female travelling alone I have found it impossible to walk undisturbed around Colombo without being pursued by a cavalcade of tuk tuk drivers.

It is disturbing , stressful and spoils any experience in Colombo.

I have spoken to other tourists and they have had the same experience in Kandy.

To quote one couple, they said ‘It grinds you down’ and as a result they won’t be returning to Sri Lanka.

Even the metered tuk tuks would rather turn meters off in an attempt to extort hundred more rupees than they would ever charge a local.

This is all very disturbing and unwelcoming and does not present the good face of Sri Lanka .

Something needs to be done about this.

Julie Webber  Via email

Death of Ven. Bellanwila Thera: Was it lack of protocol?

It is with profound sorrow the whole country witnessed the unfortunate and unexpected demise of the Most Ven. Prof. Bellanwila Wimalarathana Thera. The Thera was a highly respected scholar who excelled in the capacity of Chief Prelate, and was considered a national treasure by all.

With the account of the circumstances and the surgical management given to the Thera, I was appalled and had some sleepless nights, before I decided to pen this letter. The said scenario of the incident and the bringing of the Thera to the Colombo South Hospital, where the surgeons at the accident service performed what is essential to the situation (inserting a drainage tube to the injured chest to facilitate lung expansion and oxygenation and splinting the fractured upper arm), resulted in the Thera’s condition improving remarkably. The Thera had been in conversation with the bystanders following the initial treatment. Ven. Wimalarathana Thera had sustained multiple rib fractures resulting in a flail free moving segment of the chest, which is not an uncommon injury, and a closed fracture of the humerus (upper arm bone).

However, the continued management of the Thera apparently had gone haywire, where the injured Thera was transferred to a private hospital rather than to the National Hospital, in spite of the protests by the treating general surgeon at the accident service, as they had done what is needed for the Thera.

In an ill-conceived decision, the surgeons who were brought in later had opted to fix the fractures of the ribs and the humerus when the patient was recovering well after the initial treatment. The Thera had undergone a surgical procedure lasting more than 10 hours to fix the fractures under general anaesthesia, which is totally unacceptable and unwarranted.

The unprecedented surgical trauma caused on an already injured patient who was 75 years old with many co-morbid factors (diabetes and high blood pressure) resulted in an inevitable cardiac event two hours after surgery, causing a great loss to the country.

I write this letter not to question the competencies of the surgeons involved in their fields. This patient should have been under a team of surgical specialists, with a General Surgeon with trauma experience in the lead deciding on the best course of action to save the patient’s life first. They should have been strong enough to resist external pressure to “do something” which is dangerous and detrimental for patient survival.

I wish to reiterate that the whole scenario is not medical negligence, but the lack of proper protocol in dealing with a high profile case leading to possible mismanagement. Let our Thera’s saga be an eye-opener to the surgical fraternity, with regard to the management of trauma patients.

May the Thera be born again in this country before ending his samsara journey.

A Consultant Surgeon   Via email

Toilet facilities, a forgotten  factor at FGLF


I visited the Fairway Galle Literary Festival (January 24-28)  for the first time this year. Although I enjoyed attending the two events I had tickets for, I would like to bring to the attention of the organisers, that they had completely overlooked the need to provide proper toilet facilities.

There were no signs to direct people to toilets, and one had to ask people where they were. Finally I was directed to a permanent structure which consisted of two toilets (one of the squatting type and one with a commode), with water all over the ground, and a flush that did not work.

The wash basin outside had a tap which was shaky. There was a tissue box to wipe your hands, and a small towel – totally inadequate and unacceptable facilities for a person’s natural needs. I see no reason why the organizers could not provide some portable toilets, and provision for washing one’s hands to festival-goers, and a few signs showing people where the toilets were located.

When my husband went outside to meet the author Charles Allen, Mr Allen was distracted because no place had been arranged for him to speak to people and autograph his books. The ground outside the Fairway Pavilion was very uneven. Was it not possible to locate the tent used for the literary sessions in a better place?

Finally I think the sessions should start on time, as people sometimes have tickets for another event which is scheduled to start soon after.

Janaki Wijewardane   Via email

Don’t tax us senior citizens

Senior citizens in Sri Lanka, especially those who are still forced to work due to the spiraling cost of living should, in my view, be exempt from all forms of income tax.

We pay tax on our employment income, the annual bonus, and even on unutilised leave which we sacrifice in order to obtain that added ‘extra income’ just to keep our heads above water. I feel that the Government should seriously think of exempting senior citizens, who we cannot label as ‘senior citizens’ or an ‘economic burden’ any longer but have to consider them as a concealed power in Sri Lanka’s overall economy.

Senior Citizen  Colombo

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