Letters to the Editor

15th September 1996


Cricket! what about the war footing?

So the "cricket fever" has hit Sri Lanka once more. It was a mad euphoria when Sri Lanka won the Wills World Cup. But, what has happened to the war footing that Sri Lanka was put on?

It has been repeatedly said that we, Sri Lankans are a people with a very short memory and this has been proved without doubt. We are the best in cricket, so what? While our country is in the throes of a war, the dastardly acts of terrorism, the gruesome bombings and horrendous killings (within the City of Colombo) have so soon been forgotten.

Over a thousand young men were killed in the Mullaitivu attack by the terrorists and a few weeks ago I saw the following headlines in the newspapers. "Terrorists attack Kudapokuna - 24 policemen and five civilians killed"; "LTTE mum over Mullaitivu captives" and "LTTE Ambush Police Post in Welikanda District". Several hundreds were killed and several hundreds more severely wounded in the bomb attack on a railway train in the heart of Colombo (Dehiwela) recently.

Whilst in one part of Sri Lanka several thousands bemoan the loss of their near and dear ones and remain homeless, even without a proper meal, in the South it is Cricket, Cricket and more Cricket wherever one goes while subsidies are to be withdrawn and the price of bread and essential commodities increase day by day.

Can anyone in his right senses say that the balance citizens could revel, ignoring the most discounting and damaging impact such mentality could have on the heroic fighters languishing in the battle field?

Playing Cricket does not befit the urgent need of the hour. Oh how lovely this Sport would be if only playing Cricket could bring about a permanent solution to our strife torn motherland.

It appears that the private sector and voluntary donations seem to fund the promotion of this sport, but if Sri Lanka has so many individuals and companies who can afford to spend such large sums of money on Cricket, cannot these enormous resources be channelled to the real heroes of our nation who forfeit their life and limb to defend the unity and sovereign integrity of Mother Lanka.

I am referring to those hundreds and thousands of our young men in the Armed Forces and Police who are the real heroes of our nation, who have fought so valiantly for the safety of both myself and those donors who are making tremendous donations just for a game of Cricket. Even today, many of them lie in hospitals without either a hand, leg or who are blinded or maimed for life. It is indeed time someone called a halt to the stupidity of an entire nation.

Under the present circumstances, a responsible Government should postpone such events where large sums of money have to be spent and divert the donations received for the welfare of the families of those young men who have sacrificed their lives, and those who have lost their limbs in defending both you and me.

In fact, it is surprising that those Companies and individuals who make such large donations towards Cricket do not have at least what one would term as a sense of "guilty conscience". Those who wield riches, power and command live in luxury and comfort sans an iota of moral support towards the war effort which is the sole current national urgency. Are their sons fighting in the battle field? Yet they pay thousands and millions to those who play Cricket!

It is indeed most disgusting and a shame to find that Sri Lanka could have so many intellectuals who yet cannot and do not know to what worthy cause their money should be spent on.

Let us as a nation, as Sri Lankans, wake up from our deep slumber and face reality wisely and purposefully.

Bryan Nicholas,

Colombo 4.

Cricketers remember our armed forces

Hearty congratulations to our plucky cricketers! They displayed grit and determination, and obvious bonhomie amongst themselves. A shining example of team spirit is displayed by Aravinda's magnanimous gesture in sharing with his team mates, the car presented to him by KIA.

Well done Aravinda, you are a cricketer and a gentleman. Only us Easterners from old civilization are capable of that!

May I plead with all the members of and cricket team, to gift just one per cent in cash of your prizes to the rehabilitation and welfare centres of our armed forces and the police.

If not for these forces laying down their lives to stamp out the Tigers, we would not be able to lead a normal day-to-day life, let along play cricket.

Such a donation will help them a lot and the gesture will show that they are remembered and appreciated.

Swarna M. Abeysekera

Colombo 3.

Keep that 'sop', we will die in dignity

It was announced over state T.V. and Radio that the President and her government would give a 50 per cent pay rise to public servants and a 10 per cent increase to pensioners, 25 per cent and 5 per cent payable with effect from 1st January 1997 and the balance w.e.f. 1st January 1998.

The President joined government pensioners during election time agitating that this "golden age" group be given a fair deal. The President also accused the previous government of raising the prices of food items and medicine through gazette notifications. She now prefers to effect the increases by a simple announcement over state T.V. and Radio coming like a bolt from the blue. Many more sudden increases are, I am sure, lined up. She accused the previous government of keeping bread prices in 1994 at Rs. 5/50 per loaf and for profiteering on this basic food item but increases the price for a loaf from Rs. 3/50 in 1994 to Rs. 7/- per loaf on the 2nd anniversary of her governance.

My anticipated pension increase is Rs. 290/- p.m. in 1997 but even before that I will have to now pay just for a loaf of bread Rs. 210/- or Rs. 217/- p.m.

I was also one of those "dumb", gullible old men who placed faith in the President and voted for her and partymen after 17 years voting for the U.N.P. She now feels, however, that being in power she could kick the ladder that helped her into power.

The President lives in a gilded cage and the Ministers travel in helicopters and Volvos. No wonder they do not see (or pretend not to see) the numerous elderly men and women on the streets of Colombo and environs begging for a coin. With this unbridled escalation of prices of essential food items and medicine it will be very soon that state pensioners will be forced to join these elders to beg for a coin.

We gave the best years of our lives in the service of the state. Now at death's door this is how our employer - the perfect employers - is treating us. It may be the thinking of the President, her Ministers and party that it is better for good governance to get rid of this burden quickly and effectively.

The Deputy Minister talks of enshrining in the proposed Constitution human rights and the "right to live". May I plead with the learned Deputy Minister to enshrine also "the right to die" in the proposed Constitution.

May I take this opportunity to reiterate once again our deep appreciation of President Wijetunga, who during his short term in office, saw to the rectification of the anomalies in our pensions and ordered the implementation. This has helped us to keep ourselves just above starvation line.

Dear President, please keep this pension sop you have approved for yourself, your Ministers and for your partymen. We are not coming to you with the begging bowl but prefer to die in our own homes, bereft of food and medicine with head held high and with a clear conscience that we served our country and our countrymen to the best of our ability.

A passage in a poem comes to my mind -
"Blow, blow thou winter wind,
thou art not so unkind,
As man's ingratitude."
'Blow on thou Winter wind. Blow on. Thou art not so unkind as man's ingratitude."

Dr. P.H.D.H. de Silva


Observations of a patient at the National Hospital

I was a patient of the National Hospital for surgery in September last year and in the latter part of August this year. I wish to record my experiences in this vast hospital complex, possibly the largest in the South East Asian region.

What struck my eye indelibly on first entering the ward I was admitted to, was the quietness, cleanliness and order that prevailed. As a patient due for an early operation, on both occasions I was given a bed which was clean and comfortable. My first visit to the toilet was indeed a surprise - white tiled walls and floors with both sitting and squatting facilities together with a wash room with shower and several wash basins. The whole area was kept scrupulously clean and disinfected. I came to know later that the toilet area is cleaned and disinfected thrice a day and this was in a non-paying ward. This was a revelation, for while it is accepted by most people that the National Hospital Colombo is the best place for sick people by way of facilities, emergencies and having the most qualified personnel, one thing that was ever questionable was the toilet question. I am glad from my experience that this is a wrong impression. Doubtless other non paying wards are also similarly clean and presentable.

The ward that I was in, has at the apex, a superb professional, who conducts his duties unobtrusively, thoroughly and with aplomb. He leads from the front. This begins at his clinic and continues after admission to the ward, the operation and post operation care. His example has permeated to everyone of the personnel working in the ward, the House officers, the Sister-in-charge, the nurses, both female and male, the attendants, the pantry staff etc. They work like a well oiled machine with clock like precision. I am deeply grateful to all of them and hereby thank them for their skill and care. I feel that many people do not realise that the staff in a hospital area also, fellow human beings having the same frailties as ourselves - the patients. So when some fault occurs as it must, in a crowded hospital, they make a mountain out of a molehill and straightway hurl a vicious letter to the press. I also feel that most people who are broad- minded and know how to discern the wheat from the chaff, overlook these slight misdemeanours which are very slight in comparison to the mission of mercy the perform. It is for this reason, that I wish to give a well deserved bouquet to people who man hospitals.

There are two things that I have learnt to cope with better as a result of my hospital stay - patience and suffering of the sick. One expects to (especially if he be the head of the household) get prompt attention at one of every need and this becomes doubly so when he falls ill. In hospital, he learns patience the hard way for now he has to wait his turn for attention by the medical personnel. They have to attend to more than a 100 patients in the ward and the patient learns patience indeed the hard way. The other thing is that suffering (pain) of the sick can only be truly realised by having been an inmate in a hospital ward. Another point of interest I found as a patient was that innate humanity surfaces very fast, even spontaneously between patients meeting for the first time in a hospital ward. A simile and a friendly gesture are quickly exchanged and a spirit of camaraderie establishes itself, so useful to their mutual selves.

In conclusion, I wish to say this to the medical personnel in our hospitals. Carry on your noble work in spite of brick-bats unjustly made. They are made by a minority. The majority who are the recipients of your excellence, seldom record their experiences. This is the other purpose of this letter. You can take comfort in Shakespeare's famous lines:-

Danvie Atukorala

Colombo 6.

More letters to the editor - Unwanted anti-social practices * A third Bheeshana Samaya? * Security in villages *

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