Letters to the Editor

26th May 1996


Ban strikes till war is on

It is arrogance to ignore an order of Her Excellency the President Mrs. Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga. It creates a bad precedent. It is an offense to obstruct the normal course of duty. First and fore most the President's order should have been duly carried out. Defiance is unthinkable.

Hot on the heels comes the three week deadline pertaining to the CWC demands spear headed by Minister Thondaman. If CWC's unreasonable, unfair and impossible demands are met for mere political expediency just to appease Thondaman, the country is on the brink of chaos confusion all round, labour unrest and disaster. Let not the estate strike lead to unreasonable demands which will definitely destroy the entire tea industry.

Assist small tea estates and all private owners. Plant manioc, sweet potatoes and potatoes in estates on strike. The masses are prepared to face the consequences and even tighten their belts. For this is not the time for strike. It is tantamount to aiding and abetting terrorism. If CWC demands are met against the advice of the competent and qualified estates managements many more sectors will come out on similar wild cat strikes. Ban strikes till war is won and peace is restored island wide. All want peace first.

Carl Nanayakkara,


Give power top priority

The present power crisis is something all previous governments, the present government and the CEB should collectively accept the blame for and not curse the weather gods. It is a crying shame that this nation is invariably and annually subjected to power cuts a which, of course, means set backs in the country's development. Today, electricity being a necessity it should be the top priority item in the government's plans.

Since we are very much dependent on rain, the government and the CEB should consider consulting experts on cloud seeding to induce rain as done in some countries. This should be done immediately and not given to a committee which would mean delays which no-one can afford and end in NAT (No Action Taken).

Should the government really do something to get over the current crisis they would have something to brag about at the time of the next elections and they also can be proud of really doing something.

Increasing prices, badly maintained roads and drains, mosquitoes, striking workers (including doctors), foot dragging officials, total chaos etc., are some of the issues this government cannot be happy about.

We voted you into power assuming you can do the job. So show us what you are made of. If not....

Mohamed Nizam Samoon,

Colombo 10.

Diagnose the sickness to give the prescription

Although people give different opinions regarding the failure of electricity and accusing each other, there is a saying "Diagnose the sickness to give the prescription". As such the main thing is why the rains have failed beyond the catchment area which is because the hilly areas in the Nuwara Eliya District, all the virgin jungles are being cleared for logging, for sleepers, etc. under the cover of development and other projects to extract the timber, not realising the value of protecting nature's gift. This is where the cause lies for no rains and gradually decreasing the weather pattern.

Governments come, politicians come, environmentalists come, geologists come, ecologists come, planning ministries come, advisers come, but the destruction or raping of forests is going on for ever.

So the effect is no electricity. Man is nature's enemy. Talking of coal plants, this could be another white elephant and result in air pollution etc. As such, today if we preserve at least the existing virgin jungles still we have 45 per cent chance to get to the normal weather pattern and increase annually the rainfall beyond the catchment area.

Lionel Herath


'Free media' is Western media

You don't have to go back to World War II to examine press restrictions in the West in times of war. You can start in Vietnam and the JFK, LBJ and Nixon Government's Orwellian attempts to manage media coverage such as totally exaggerating enemy body counts when the war was unfavourable to the US. That attempt to manipulate the media was a total disaster for the official Government position on events. There are classified secrets in the US to which the media has no access even with the demise of the cold war with secrets dating back to WW II. No one questions it, because there is military information which can be vital to national security interests.

Having learnt their lesson from the Vietnam debacle, more recently in The Persian Gulf the press was restricted by a system of "Journalist Pools" with very limited military-controlled access to the Warfront. Those bold journalists like CNN's Peter Arnett who challenged the concept of "managed news" and who tried to bring to light the civilian horrors of that war were roundly chastised by some US Senators and Congressmen as being "unpatriotic", for breaking the media restrictions set by the Allies.

Perhaps the Government of Sri Lanka can arrange a system like the one the US and its allies imposed during the Gulf War? After all, some of the so-called pseudo-liberal British, and other western journalists who love to dominate our news services ought to be used to that in times of war and terrorist attacks in the west? I still sense that some of our people are easily intimidated by the arrogance of western people simply based on their relatively less melanin concentrations. Hasn't it been over 45 years since independence?

Like on most other matters, the first world's standards on free media are flexible depending on where one stands in the Geo-Political spectrum. Since poor developing nations are still overwhelmingly dependent on the first world for aid, and handouts, we are bound by conditions imposed by them. This is an inevitable phenomena because of our "dependent" economies. We cannot ignore their concerns nor dismiss them self righteously because to do so is to invite wholesale criticism, and economic and political isolation. So as much as we like to take umbrage at these obvious double standards vis-a-vis press freedom in times of war, it is how power is wielded by Super Powers over relatively poor developing world in the post-colonial free market era of international trade that needs to be seen and overcome.

We will never be able to have access to or dominate global media the way the west does. That is simply how the chips fall, in the words of West Germany's famous Willie Brandt's realm of "Realpoltik".

Manonita R. Ratwatte


Puttalam Cement DG clarifies

I refer to the letter which appeared in The Sunday Times of May 19, under the headline Puttalam Cement about  turn by Securities and Exchange Commission by C. Ramachandra of Colombo 7.

Mr. Ramachandra has opined that "... as Unit Trust Funds are made up of public funds the Securities and Exchange Commission should explain why it permitted public funds to be invested in what it now says is an illegal debenture issue."

The Trust Deeds of Unit Trusts restrict investments by Unit Trusts in unlisted securities to specified limits. These Deeds also require Managers of Unit Trusts to obtain the approval of the Securities and Exchange Commission prior to making such investments. This restriction is for the purpose of limiting their exposure to unlisted securities, which are illiquid (i.e., cannot be easily traded) and therefore could result in such Management Companies being unable to meet redemptions if necessary, and which also makes proper pricing difficult.

Consequently, when a Management Company wishes to invest in such securities it requests the approval of the Securities and Exchange Commission, which then ensures that these thresholds are not exceeded, and where relevant, satisfies itself that the issuer will seek a listing within a reasonable period of time. The Commission does not, and cannot judge the investment from a suitability standpoint, and that remains the exclusive responsibility of the Fund Manager.

The requests by the Managers of Unit Trusts to invest in the debentures of Puttalam Cement Company were made to the Commission through their Trustees in December 1993, approximately eight months before the listing application of Puttalam Cement was even received by the Commission. Hence, the Commission was not aware at the time that there was a violation of section 55.

In any event, since the Commission has consistently interpreted this violation as being a avoidable transaction and not a void transaction, (which view has incidentally been confirmed by the Attorney General), and the Commission did not have any reason to believe that it would be set aside at that time, the Commission would not have had any grounds to have prohibited the investment even if it had known of the violation.

As stated previously, the evaluation of investment risks are the responsibility of Fund Managers and the Commission presumes that the Fund Managers of the Unit Trusts would have given their minds to this violation at the time that they evaluated their investment in the said debenture.

Mr. Ramachandra also states that the Commission stopped the issue two days before it was to open. This is incorrect. The Puttalam Cement Issue was never approved by the Securities and Exchange Commission nor the Colombo Stock Exchange.

The Commission wishes to thank Mr. Ramachandra for having raised these issues and trusts that they have been adequately clarified.

Arittha R. Wikramanayake,

Director General,
Securities and Exchange Commission.

Unloading the civil servants who do not serve

Like the CEB, the Ministry of Public Administration has gone on regardless of the "Load Factor". The Electricity Board has resorted to "Load Shedding" and the Public Administration Ministry is to resort to unloading. The off loading at the "Pool Side" with the change of Government appears to be over.

The former government felt that the Public Service was heavily overloaded and decided to unload the excess and a generous retirement scheme was offered. But unfortunately the wrong consignments were unloaded. The more dynamic and enterprising public servants took the opportunity and left the service leaving the lethargic employees to continue.

The present government has now decided to unload a further consignment and if they too unload the wrong consignment we will be left with a public service of very poor quality, and the whole exercise will be unproductive.

The first step is to identify the categories of public servants who are in excess after a careful work-study assessment. An employee should be worthy of his/her hire taking into consideration his/her quality and output of work. Like in the private sector an employee should have at least 6 hours of work in fixing the cadre. This requirement is imperative in the combined services and the teaching professions which it is believed, are heavily overloaded.

When offering generous terms of retirement benefits the ridiculous concessions of subsidised railway season tickets to travel daily from far off places, like Matara, Galle, Kandy, Puttalam etc., to Colombo should be discontinued.

Most of the Ministries are full of redundant staff consequent to devolution of powers to Provincial Councils. There were instances where staff were deliberately retained in the Ministries even after their functions were devolved. On the other hand why should the central government still maintain Ministries for sectors that are devolved? They create work to justify their existence.

Another glaring instance is the overloading in the teaching profession. Thousands are in excess and most of them in Colombo and provincial cities. Why are these teachers kept in excess: and at what cost to the state? Why are all these irresponsible appointments made? Even if they are to be retired what about the annual pension bill? Anyway it is far better to dispense with unproductive labour so that they could contribute to national development from their home stations in some form or other. It is said that 65 per cent of the public service is in the education sector.

The Management sector too has to be restructured with a view to making the Managers more service oriented. The Administrative Service of today adopts a negative approach for work and is not career conscious as in the past. Dedication to work and accepting responsibility in service delivery are indispensable. An administrator should have a certain amount of leverage in his position so that he/she could lead his/her team to fulfill its mission. Politicians should be made to have a proper appreciation of the administrator's task and to extend their co-operation in nation building.

Politicians should have a proper appreciation of the role of a Ministry Secretary, a Head of a Department/District Secretary. These are officers who work closely with Ministers and their association with each other very often become very cordial and at times very personal. This human factor should not be misconstrued as political back scratching when there is a change of government. This attitude is counterproductive resulting in killing an officers entrepreneurship and has a demoralising effect on the whole administrative structure.

This brings me to the all important issue of manning top government posts which need officers with proven track records. Unfortunately some of the posts at the very top are filled on political patronage resulting in the government having to face embarrassing situations due to misdirections and ill-considered advice on important issues. What the country needs is not just 'yes men' with paper qualifications but men of character and outstanding performance in the respective professions.



Write a letter to the editor : editor@suntimes.is.lk

Go to the Plus contents page

Go to the Letters to the Editor Archive