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Letters to the Editor

9th March, 1997


Parties and local govt. Elections

The country's political groupings are girding their loins for a gladiatorial struggle for the control of local government bodies. But there is no role for party politics in local government. The functions of local bodies are well known. They include: the supply of water and electricity, construction and maintenance of roads, street lighting, maintenance of public health, garbage collection and disposal, sewage disposal, construction and maintenance of public utilities including markets, pubic toilets and public parks. All these functions are above debate and lie outside party politics. Party politics in fact has been the bane of local government.

As party politics intrudes into local government bodies, many employees of these bodies, especially those in the lower rungs, are converted into active supporters of the dominant political grouping. These loyalties change with changes in the administration. Their concerns shift from the welfare of the residents of the area to the cause of their political masters.

Significant development in the Dehiwala-Mount Lavinia area (of which I am a long standing resident) took place long before the advent of party politics. The present system of voting in local government elections has a number of drawbacks.

The disappearance of the ward member removes the person to whom the local residents can take their problems. Should he fail them, he loses their vote at the next election. Our ward has been represented in the past by distinguished citizens whom the people voted in.

Fairline Road, Dehiwala, and its environs were till recently a popular residential area. Today this area is in a sad mess, smelly and teeming with mosquitoes. The Municipal Council, discarding its role of protector of the people's health, has been engaged in the discharge of sewage collected from other parts of the Municipal area, into the sewer opposite the sewage pumping station down the road. Several months ago the area residents petitioned the Mayor about the stench and the serious health hazard to them. No meaningful action has been taken up to now. The stream of sewage bowsers continues their ominous threat to the health of the area residents.

The candidates have been selected and the campaigns begun. Their pictures disfigure the parapet walls and even road signs and road name boards everywhere.

But neither the candidates nor the election have any meaning for people like me unless a valid commitment is made even at this late stage by the political groupings to solve our specific urgent municipal problems. Otherwise, why should I or any of the others in similar situations bother to vote?

M.S. Wijeratne,


Give them the heel

As a professional career-woman, I find the recruitment advertisements placed in the media by SLAF very distasteful and insulting to all professional women. In addition to having a stupid looking red high heeled shoe in the ad, the headline poses a sarcastic question: Ever heard of women aircraft engineers etc., etc...

Does the SLAF think we Sri Lanka women live in the stone age? That ad insults every Sri Lankan woman who has achieved professional status. How dare they underestimate women in a country with one of the highest literacy rates in the world and also one that is headed by a woman herself.

All right thinking professional Sri Lankan women should protest to the government about this silly advertisement. Moreover according to the information in the ads, the SLAF actually offers lower salaries to women over men!

Madam President, I humbly appeal to you not to let such half baked ads emerge from any government institution.

Ms. K. Ratnayake,


Solar power in Sri Lanka

With memories of the 1996 power crisis still very fresh in our minds, one wonders what happened to P. Sumanasekera's (ex-Meteorologist and Managing Director of Vidya Silpa, a local industry engaged in the manufacture and supply of Laboratory Science Equipment to schools) plan for the promotion of Solar Energy in Sri Lanka in 1981? It is fifteen years since he mooted the idea and since then, the country has lurched from crisis to crisis in this sector, with recent prophets of doom declaring that, "we are in for trouble once again." Yet, no one suggests this alternative despite the country having sunshine practically all year round.

Mr. Sumanasekera suggested Photovoltaic Technology Quote. "The converter known as the Photovoltaic Cell or Solar Cell is a thin wafer of semi-conducting material whose electrical properties have been modified so it acts almost like a transistor diode with a large surface area. When sunlight strikes the solar cell, the photons constituting sunlight "energise" the cell by generating electricity carriers as well as voltage barrier across the cell terminals. Under solar illumination, a solar cell acts like a generator of electricity, converting a part of the energy of solar radiation into electrical energy," unquote.

In an article in the Ministry of Plan Implementation "Progress" Vol: 1 No. 4 December 1981 issue Mr. Sumanasekera expands on the subject. He had visions of rural electrification through this method, operation of community TVs, and brightening the lives of those who struggle with kerosene lamps or bottle lamps. Now those living in cities wait with bated breath for the dreaded announcement of implementation of power cuts.

Unfortunately there seem to be 'urban pundits' who advise other methods which will eventually hit the purse of Citizen Perera, who is already struggling under a mountain of debt to keep the home fires burning. Here's hoping that even at this late stage, someone, somewhere will see the 'light' and explore Mr. Sumanasekera's theory before we are all extinguished in another 'blackout.'

S.C. Young,


Fate of the pensioners

It is with much regret and strain, I beg to bring the following to the notice of the Chairman, Salary Anomalies Committee:

1. Several salaries commissions have been appointed from time to time and those recommendations have been implemented. But the fate of the pensioners has been either overlooked or even forgotten for convenience sake or otherwise. At times, when such commissions do recommend increases for pensioners, they are not even taken into consideration by the Department of Public Administration. Even though the increases recommended to the public servants are more related to the escalated increases of the cost of living, the increases recommended to the pensioners are inadequate to meet the spiral increases of the cost of living of the day.

Even though the B.C. Perera Commission (Sessional Paper No. 11 - 1996) has recommended an increase of 30% of the pension, the government had ignored this and wants to pay the pensioners a paltry increase of 5% of the pension this year and another 5% next year.

In this connection, I would like to quote a few requests made earlier regarding the pensioners.

The Wanasinghe Administrative Reform Committee has recommended the revision of pensions whenever the salaries of public servants are revised. The report continues to say that the pensioners should be compensated for the escalation in the cost of living, con-currently, when and where the public servants' salaries are revised. A former Auditor General W. Gamini Epa too has brought this injustice to light, in his letter to the press as follows: "Every time a salary revision is granted to the public sector, the government pensioners are left in the lurch as victims of wage and price increase."

S. Sivaraja,

Colombo 6.

Give duty-free vehicles for Lankans in ME

It was reported in the news media that our world famous cricket team is to be accorded the facility to import vehicles (one for each) 'free of duty'. It is well and good, they should be rewarded for their efforts. Afterall, they brought fame to our country.

Up to now, nobody or no government has thought about Sri Lankans working in the Middle East who play a different type of cricket in the desert.

The type of cricket Sri Lankans in this part of the world play, keeps the 'government fires burning.'

Even congenial Professor G. L. Peiris once mentioned about the yeoman service Lankans in the M. E. render to the country in his budget speech- but as usual nothing has come out of it.

If there was no income from the Middle East employment, what would be the position of the government coffers?

Our cricketers brought only fame to the country, but Sri Lankans out here in the desert bring in something else on a regular basis, without which the country would be in dire straits.

Even racketeer businessmen who bring in foreign exchange to the country by not so legal means, are also given the same exchange rates as M.E. Lankans. If my memory serves right, about two decades ago, those who brought in foreign exchange legally to the country were paid something called FEECs for which they received a higher exchange rate than the normal declared exchange rate. It was a reward itself for few Lankans who worked in the M. E. at that time.

Now there is no reward at all for Lankans working in hazardous conditions in the M. E.

It will not be too much, if the government accorded the same facility they gave to our cricketers- to import duty free cars- but for those who remit foreign exchange regularly to the country and not for those who hoard it in the UK/Channel Islands.

The important factor to keep in mind is that each and every Lankan here has many votes way back home, and bread winners have a great say on this matter.

Ariyasumithra Wijeyaratne


Simple way to prevent pedestrian accidents

With uncontrolled population explosion and a concurrent increase in motor traffic far beyond the 'carrying capacity' of our roads, motor traffic accidents involving pedestrians are taking a heavy toll of human lives.

It is a very common sight to see children darting across the roads or older people strolling across roads like buffaloes in the face of oncoming traffic driven by reckless drivers.

A simple procedure adopted in Canada and many developed countries to avoid pedestrian motor accidents is to extend one's hand in the direction of walking while crossing roads even on pedestrian crossings. This simple procedure will warn motorists to adjust their speeds and manoeuvre the vehicle to prevent it hitting pedestrians.

The outstretched hand in the direction of crossing will not only save so many valuable human lives and hospital admissions for long-term surgical care, but also prevent University and College students taking the law into their hands and toppling and burning buses and motor vehicles as we witnessed recently in Colombo and Kandy. There will be more such incidents unless we institute effective remedial measures. Class teachers and student traffic wardens must be instructed to educate school children to practise this simple procedure to prevent pedestrian accidents.

P. Sajeeva M. de Siva


'Classics' in the annals of Parliament

The glowing tributes to Peter Keuneman and excerpts from his parliamentary speeches provoke pangs of nostalgia for, what now seems a golden age of a galaxy of intellectuals-cum-political leaders, men of principles, ideals and vision, who abandoning their ample scope for amassing private fortune adorned parliament, dedicating themselves to the cause of the country's freedom, equal rights for all its peoples, its unity amidst diversity, and above all to the upliftment of the working class, the oppressed and the down-trodden.

Revolutionaries of Marxist ideology, they proved, paradoxically enough, to be the parliamentarians by par excellence of the Westminster Model, making its local counterpart, the most spectacular in its history as the highest lively debating forum of the nation, its grand inquisitor, the watchdog of liberty and the theatre of democracy displaying the unique role of the opposition.

It was in 1943 at the height of the second world war, when Hitler posed the gravest danger to the free world, Peter Keuneman captivated the youth of Jaffna by his dazzling eloquence in the English language on 'The Red Army'. It is unforgettable. The subsequent long parliamentary career of Peter is a classic record in the annals of parliament, as a model in the gymnastics of parliamentary debates.

But such a spectacle seems to be no more; the portents for parliament not rosy. The eclipse of parliament, in the wake of the Executive Presidency is perhaps natural, but the public disappointment with parliament cannot be oversimplified as a fault of the Constitution only. The image and stature of parliament cannot be divorced from the deterioration in the tone, quality and content of what has long been called the liberal education and the glaringly inferior and inarticulate products of the system of education following the marginalisation of English.

Clement Atlee's apt remark that for an MP, information is power and Kenneth Kaunda's advocacy of proficiency in English as a sine qua non for MPs, point to practical truths for as Edmund Burke propounded, an MP is not a mere mechanical replica of his constituents but a delegate chosen for his superior virtue, wisdom and his dedication and discretion to act in the higher national interests.

A rethinking of the place of English in proposed educational restructuring, investing English with a living, liberating role particularly at the university levels, in the wake of the constitutional reforms, is imperative to counter divisive forces and foster the unifying ones that are the core of a Sri Lankan identity.

A. Nadarajah

Colombo 5.

More letters to the editor* Let us live without fear* Stop this menace * The impact of the BASL elections * University admissions - 1996/97 unfair * Wish you the very best * Congratulations

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