The Sunday TimesNews/Comment

22nd September 1996



Clarke happy with beach cleanup

For the first time in Sri Lanka, the Underwater Safaris Limited on Thursday organized a Beach Clean up program under the patronage of Dr. Arthur C. Clarke, at the Wellawatte beach, to mark the International Clean-up Day.

Mrs. Valerie Ekanayake, consultant for Underwater Safaris launched this activity at the request of the US based Center for Marine Conservation which organized similar programs worldwide. Marine enthusiasts and beach lovers around the globe, yesterday engaged in an effort to clean up beaches.

Dr. Clarke who founded the Underwater Safaris Ltd., 30 years ago, in a special message said: "I have seen the gradual deterioration of our beaches over nearly 40 years. It is a great pity because the beaches and the ocean are among the most valuable assets of the country, particularly for recreation, tourism and water sports".

"It is indeed encouraging to see the community taking an interest to clean up the beach. I hope we can turn everyday into a clean up day", added Dr. Clarke.

Many volunteers gathered near Beach Wadiya Restaurant at Wellawatte around 4 pm. and started collecting garbage, while another set of volunteers categorized and identified the garbage. A stretch of nearly 1.5 km starting from Beach Wadiya, heading towards Moratuwa was covered.

The Colombo Municipal Council made available several garbage trucks and their staff to dispatch the garbage collected by the volunteers. "The data collected, gave us an idea of the sources and causes of beach pollution", said Mrs. Ekanayake.

Electric train a reality by 2000

By Arshad M. Hadjirin

The Public Enterprise Reform Commission will soon call for tenders from foreign investors for the electrification of a 150 km stretch of railway line in the suburb, Transport Minister Srimani Athulathmudali said.

She said the Ministry decided to bring a foreign company as it did not have necessary finances or resources for the Rs. 20 billion project.

P. Rajagopal, advisor on transport to the Minister, has presented a report detailing the technicalities, management structures, financial feasibility etc. of the project which is to be commissioned by the year 2000.

Ms. Athulathmudali said the foreign investor would be required to establish a separate power generation plant to ensure uninterrupted power supply to run the electrified train service.

The report points out the CEB will not be able to meet the power requirements of the project.

The foreign investor will have to increase train fares, to regain the gigantic amount spent on the project, but the fare-hike will certainly take some time," said Ms. Athulathmudali.

Since 1952, studies and investigations have been made by both foreign and local experts on the electrification of the suburban railways. Sofrerail (France), Pacific Consultants Inc. (Japan), Louis Berger Inc. (USA) and Jarts (Japan) have confirmed in their reports the project is feasible.

The railway stretches to be electrified are Colombo-Polgahawela (73 km), Colombo-Kalutara South (42 km) and Ragama-Negombo/Katunayake Airport (30 km). It is estimated that 52 four-car train sets will have to be in operation for the electrified train service.

The Sri Lanka Railways will pay the operator for services provided under this project to be commissioned on a Build Operate and Own (BOO) or Build Operate and Transfer (BOT) condition

Kuwait officials deny reports

A controversy over treatment of housemaids in Kuwait could affect ties between the two countries, Kuwait officials on a visit here said.

According to them, the Kuwaiti Government is even reconsidering the provision of a big loan to Sri Lanka in view of what it sees as exaggerated or ill-motivated reports regarding the plight of Sri Lankan girls there.

They said certain job agencies with vested interests were behind a campaign of horror stories from Kuwait.

There are 96,000 Sri Lankans employed in Kuwait of whom 85,000 are housemaids. The total number of complaints received from our housemaids in Kuwait on harassment both physical and sexual in 1995 and 1996 was relatively small, they said.

They said the main reason for problems were the lack of training and awareness of social conditions in Kuwait. In addition there were malpractices resorted to by some of our agents.

"Your housemaids should be given at least one month training before they are sent to Kuwait. Basic things like teaching them a few words of Arabic is also essential", they said.

"What Sri Lanka should understand is that there are only 700,000 Kuwaiti nationals and there are other nationals numbering one million. There are Egyptians, Syrians, Lebanese, US and British citizens as well, who are domiciled in Kuwait and are allowed to employ housemaids. Even if housemaids employed under them complain about harassment it goes under the name of a Kuwaiti national", one official said.

Meanwhile, Foreign Employment Bureau chief, Nissanka Wijeratne said Kuwait's decision to restrict the issue of visas to expatriate workers in most sectors except the domestic workers, was not particularly targeted at Sri Lankans.

This was part of the Kuwaiti government's policy to reduce dependency on foreign workers as confirmed by the Ambassador of Sri Lanka in Kuwait, he said. "Why should the government of Kuwait stop visas to Sri Lankan male workers over an allegation of sexual assault on female domestic workers? This is another attempt to tarnish the excellent relations Sri Lanka has with the State of Kuwait and is an insult to the government of Kuwait", he said.

Col. Wijeratne said some job agencies were continuing with an anti-Kuwait campaign despite denials by him. He felt that some elements, perhaps backed by Northern terrorists were trying to undermine Sri Lanka's job market.

Comfy cops

By Annesley Fernando

A civic rights movement in Moratuwa has accused the area police of lethargy and incompetence while social evils are rampant.

Pointing out various crimes taking place all over Moratuwa, the movement states that criminal elements are terrorizing the people especially after dusk.

Among the cases cited is the scandalous situation at Koralawella where sex perverts and drug addicts have virtually taken over a cemetery and school building adjoining St. Michael's Church.

The civic rights movement feels the police are negligent and careless. It appeals to higher authorities to take urgent action to make Moratuwa a safe place for citizens.

UNP ticket only for party members

By Shyamal Collure

Every candidate contesting on the United National Party (UNP) ticket in future will have to be a UNPer, the Leader of the Opposition, Ranil Wickremesinghe emphasized at a discussion organized by the National Lawyers' Association yesterday.

Answering a question why the Ceylon Workers' Congress (CWC) was enjoying the special privilege of being in the government while having contested the last General Election on the UNP ticket, Mr. Wickremesinghe said that it was due to a memorandum of understanding entered into between the UNP and the CWC. "It was the party that wanted to have an agreement. If not for that, we could have been a minority in Nuwara Eliya" he said.

Mr. Wickremesinghe added that the UNP being the only political party in Sri Lanka which has contested all the elections since 1946 would lead the country to the 21st century as it remained to be the strongest single power. "Our party believes in politics of performance and credibility and not in promises. It will not be a government of commissions to go into the past but which will be futuristic", he said.

Mr. Wickremesinghe further stressed that the UNP, being one of the political parties in Asia, would create a society based on personal liberty. It would strive to ensure that Lankans had enough to fund for themselves and to protect the media. "Whatever the price we have to pay, we'll pay to ensure that no government would ever terrorize the people", Mr. Wickremesinghe stressed.

General Secretary of the UNP, Gamini Athukorale, Tyronne Fernando , Dr. Karunasena Kodituwakku, K. N. Choksy, John Amaratunge, Tilak Marapana, P. Dayaratne, Paul Perera and Tilak Karunaratne were also present. Among the leading speakers were, Attorneys Upul Jayasooriya and Lakshman Perera

Mud and fish

I apologize for my ignorance of the very modern slang use of the word "beef" in responding to Mr. Mahindapala. It goes to show how short-sighted I have been in limiting my reading of modern literature to polite authors, neglecting modern Aristophaneses.

He himself was one of the world's greatest writers, beyond comparison with some moderns we know, who do not have his justification of dramatic necessity in presenting crude characters in his comedies. ( Shakespeare's Iago, incidentally, would not have been appreciated as a Sunday school teacher).

Mr. Totsie Vittachchi raised in his letter to you, published in your issue of 18th August, the relevant question whether inland fisheries had, in fact, been prohibited as stated by me. What follows is my appreciation of the situation. I regret the inevitable length of this statement.

In mid-1965 Mr N.S.O. Mendis, Chairman of the Mackwoods Group sent me on a trip to Lebanon, West Germany, the Netherlands, Denmark, England and the United States, primarily to explore possibilities of exporting packeted tea from Sri Lanka to those countries.

I was also directed to arrange for the purchase of a tea-bagging machine in Germany, and to visit Disney Land, to discuss with a representative of the company prospects for establishing a replica in Sri Lanka, with themes from Indo-Sri Lankan history, mythology, religion, superstitions, traditions, wildlife, seascape and landscape, arts and crafts, customs, agriculture, trade and employment generally, etc.

What is relevant to my present concern is that, for various reasons, my primary mission failed, and the Disney Land proposal was considered by Mr. Mendis to be too costly and ambitious for him to undertake, although the prospects continue to seem to me to be splendid, even as a joint venture with Disney or other foreign collaborators.

I contracted for purchase of a bagging machine as Mr. Mendis' mind was set on it, and the financial risk was entirely his, not mine (!), although I had my own misgivings owing to the exorbitant cost of freight of tea in consumer "paper bags" as compared with the cost of freight of tea in bulk or even in packets.

In New York, I learnt that we would have no difficulty at all in selling prawns if we could export them, taking care to conform to US health requirements. I reported this to Mr. Mendis, and he was very interested. He wondered whether we might be able to "cultivate" prawns in inland ponds, and asked me to make all investigations I could, confidentially, so as to keep it all a "trade secret"!

I contacted the Japanese Trade attach and he secured literature for me from Japan, being himself unacquainted with the subject. What I learnt from the literature was that experimentation in Japan had shown that "prawn cultivation" in small expanses of water was unprofitable because a high density of prawn "population" promoted disease among them; what was best was a large area, with a relatively low density of prawn population, in which natural conditions such as those in a lagoon could be simulated.

It seemed to me that a reasonably large extent from Muturajawela, "isolated" from the rest of the "swamp", but with the movement of water virtually unimpeded - and even assisted by pumping water in from the canal, would be ideal for a project. Mr Mendis, although he appreciated the merits of this proposal, subject to detailed examination by experts, considered that the prospects of his securing rights from the Government were dim, and the proposals should therefore be abandoned.

What I had told him, however, about prospects for sale of prawns in the US contributed to his "forging links" with Perry James Ltd. for collection of prawns from parties engaged in prawn fishing in various areas, for cleaning, refrigeration and export.

When, later, the YMCA entered into negotiations with the US Aid Authority, with success, for a Home Gardens Project, the officer in charge there said to me that US financiers would be far more interested in projects involving much larger financing, and the Sri Lankan "partners" could well be private entrepreneurs.

My mind went back to the Muturajawela proposal. I knew that it would be inappropriate to the YMCA, which was not interested in commercial projects for its own profit, and would not want its own officials to engage themselves in running them.

Having been associated for a long time with the Ceylon Chamber of Commerce, having even served it as Assistant Chairman, Deputy Chairman and Chairman, two years in each of those offices with acceptance, I felt confident that I would be able to persuade some members to undertake a joint venture in prawn "cultivation".

But before approaching any of them I thought it prudent to ascertain whether the Government would be willing to make a suitable extent from Muturajawela available.

I had once, in inviting Mr. Premadasa, who was the chief guest, to address a public meeting at the Colombo YMCA, said that all Christians were Premadasas, being servants of Love. He was visibly pleased, and on various occasions when we met even casually, he used to ask me about the progress of the YMCA.

I had no compunction, therefore, about seeing him, by appointment, about Muturajawela. He listened attentively, and deferred consideration. Shortly afterwards he sent for me and told me kindly, but firmly, that he was sorry to refuse me, but he would not have any state land or state-owned expanse of water made available for prawn cultivation or any other type of fishing, because such activity transgressed the Buddha's first prohibition, of the taking of life.

I refrained from remarking that the Government's not banning ocean fishing was itself a violation, but observed that prohibition of exploitation of state-owned land and water for fisheries was tantamount to prohibition of inland fisheries because there was scarcely any expanse of suitable terrain or water of worthwhile extent in private possession.

He agreed that was so, but he would not change his decision. He appreciated that, unless prohibition were legally enacted, individuals would continue to fish in rivers and streams, lakes, "tanks" and lagoons, but incidence would be negligible and not worth legislating against.

Mr. Premadasa's reason being what it was, his position could not logically be controverted. (I was not - and am not - an exponent of the "Tu quoque" fallacy, which I leave to politicians, or happy to "be hung for a sheep as a lamb"). I accepted defeat - stoically, as my Friend the late Mr. E.C.B. Wijesinghe once observed about me, although I am no stoic.

What is ominous is the possibility, initially, of extension of prohibition to animal husbandry and manufacture and import and consumption of spirituous liquors, a possibility all the more probable with the Hon. G.L.Peiris' bhikkuocratic leanings. A sequel may very well be experienced even in cultural, educational, social and religious areas, prejudicial to the freedom of non-Buddhists and even of Siddhartha Gautama Buddhists.


The situation reflected in what I would call the Muturajawela Response was not publicized, and I now recognize, with apologies, that it would have been best if I had said initially all I have now said, instead of saying baldly, for brevity's sake, that inland fisheries had been prohibited.

All which notwithstanding, my contention that the "foremost place" is undemocratic and opprobrious to citizens who are not Sinhala-Buddhists (in which category I do not, of course, include Sinhalese who genuinely are Buddhists, dedicated to the universal compassion, the maitriya, of the Buddha.

May all beings, including Tamils, be happy, sharing in that Maitriya, not "howling and bellowing to heaven's height" for their own, exclusive,

"We're the chosen, elected few,

Let all the rest be damned"

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